Childcare operators raising fees to cope with rising costs

Childcare operators here are feeling the pinch from rising operating costs, and some are raising fees to cope.

The latest to do this is NTUC First Campus - Singapore's largest childcare operator. From July 1, it will be increasing its fees by about S$30 for its "My First Skool" childcare centres.

In a letter sent to parents in March, My First Skool said its practice is "to make regular but moderate fee adjustments each year". This is in line with "increases in investments in quality childcare services".

With the changes, full day fees for toddlers will cost S$642, while the nursery will cost S$588. The letter added that the fees "remain affordable" - below the current national median of S$700 a month.

Responding to queries, My First Skool said 86 per cent of its teachers hold a diploma in early childhood education. It added that the median salary of such teachers is S$2,100 - a more than 30 per cent increase from 2007. And it plans to spend S$1.5 million on manpower this year.

It said the fee hike was due to higher wages to attract more qualified teachers, who can provide better curriculum for the students. Parents said that the fees are still affordable. My First Skool said its centres are also regularly upgraded.

My First Skool has 77 centres islandwide, with more than 7,000 children enrolled. Other childcare operators confirmed that rising salaries are forcing them to raise their fees.

At least two branches of Carpe Diem Schoolhouse, will be upping its fees from August. Carpe Diem founder, Francis Ng, said the Jurong Kechil and Punggol centres which he directly owns, will increase their fees by S$50. The brand has another 18 branches, owned by franchisees.

Pat's Schoolhouse, which has 14 centres, raised its fees by S$75 per month earlier this year. Its spokesperson, Senior Manager of Operations Julia Teo, said the hike was due to inflation and rising operation costs.

They said that with many operators expanding their business, and with a shortage of pre-school teachers, they have to pay more to retain and attract new teachers.

-CNA/ac