Getting into a TOP primary school
Getting your child into a prestigious primary school is not an easy task but here are some tips how.
- Buy a property and live within 1km of the prestigious school.
- Be a former student of the school – in which case, your child has immediate admissions priority.
- Be a member of an association or a religious group which is affiliated to the school
- Apply to be a parent volunteer (PV).
- Join the grassroots as a member and volunteer your services.
- Pray and hope your lucky stars will secure you a spot in the school of choice.
Parent volunteers, or PVs, put in a lot of time, effort and commitment in schools. So, what is a PV, why are so many parents eager to be one and why are they so stressed about it?
A parent volunteer is basically a parent who volunteers his/her time and service to support the school with various duties that the school may not have the manpower or time to meet. In exchange for their services, the PVs are rewarded with favorable options to admit their children into the school.
However, these options are not always guaranteed entry into the school. We asked 3 mothers who have or are serving their time as PVs to share their experiences with us.
Angie Cheong volunteered for Gongshan Primary School, Li-Ann Sia for St. Hilda’s Primary School, while Ly Leong volunteered for Rosyth Primary School.
1. What is the application process to be a parent volunteer at the school?
Gongshan: Send application direct to the school; the school will contact you for briefing before you finally decide if you will accept PV for the period
St. Hilda’s: Send in an application form for parent volunteers; the school shortlists 70 out of hundreds of applicants. The shortlisted parents are required to attend a seminar, whereby the programs run by parent volunteers are described in detail, including commitment level. Shortlisted parents are required to pen a short writeup at the end of the seminar, stating how they can contribute to the school effectively. The Parent Support Group (PSG) committee will then further shortlist parents based on their writeups and invite them for an interview at the school. Thereafter, 30 parent volunteers will be chosen.
Rosyth: Through submission of a registration form. Once the parent is selected, there was a 1st ‘interview’ session to get to know the parents better. Once it is confirmed that the parent is selected, there will be a separate briefing session with the rest of the parents where we were briefed about the school and told to indicate our preference in terms of area of participation.
2. Any preparations?
Gong Shan: no preparation needed
St. Hilda’s: No preparations but I was required to submit a proposal outlining how I could contribute to the school after the interview (before I was finally accepted as a PV). The proposal was submitted to the Principal and in it, I was asked to describe some of my plans/ideas for a Science club/workshop for the school.
3. What kind of volunteer work do you do? Are you assigned or can you choose?
Gong Shan: PV jobs required by the school are send via email to all PV, the 1st few PV who reply to the email will get the job. So having a email address is necessary.
St. Hilda’s: There are weekly programs that are fully run by PVs in the school.
a) Reading is Fun program (RIFP) – PVs coach, mentor and encourage pupils who are weak at reading.
b) Hildan Avid Readers Program (HARP), English and Mandarin – pupils are encouraged to come and read aloud to PVs during recess. As they read more and more books, they can earn special badges as a form of motivation. Some of the badges are given out during assembly, as a form of recognition in front of the entire school, to further encourage pupils to read avidly.
c) Maths made Easy (MME) – PVs tutor and mentor pupils who are weak in Maths. The Parent volunteer committee members will provide weekly revision lessons and worksheets. The Pvs then have to get the pupils to do the worksheets and coach them one to one.
I am currently in all of the above programs. PVs can choose to volunteer for any of these programs to suit their schedules. Other volunteer work are ad hoc, including helping out to decorate the school for the annual concert, preparing souvenirs for their prom, etc. SMSes will be sent out from the PSG committee asking for volunteers for these ad hoc activities, and PVs who are available will then have to reply to secure the volunteer slot.
Rosyth: Library duties whereby I help out in the school library weekly. Duties include preparing library cards, shelving books, repairing books etc.
4. How many hours or time commitment is required?
Gong Shan: 40 hours in total
St. Hilda’s: Based on previous statistics, parents living within 1km, and even 1-2km of the school need only do the minimum 40 hours. However, for parents living outside 2km, there is no limit to the number of hours you can clock. This is because many of these parents have to appeal to enter the school after being unsuccessful during the ballot, so the higher the number of hours clocked, the higher the chance of getting in. (i.e parents are ranked according to the number of hours clocked. The one with the highest number of hours will be accepted first in an appeal, followed by the second highest and so on)
Unfortunately I fall into this last category, so it’s pretty competitive! Last year the top PV clocked a staggering 600 hours! *faints*
Rosyth: Min 70 hours
5. Any guarantees to get in?
Gong Shan: PV staying within 1km will definitely get in, since I live within 1-2km, I may need to ballot. Also depends on how many eligible PV within 1-2km have completed 40hrs by 30 June 2011, if it doesn’t exceed the total available PV’s, then I will likely to get in.
St. Hilda’s: Nope
6. Can you appeal if you fail in your application for entry into the school?
Gong Shan: We were told appeals won’t help if we to get into 2B.
St. Hilda’s: please refer to point 4 (italic).
Rosyth: Appeals are on a case to case basis as decided by the Principal.
7. Any feedback or advice for future PVs?
Gong Shan: no comments cause different schools have different PV rules
St. Hilda’s: The school doesn’t really emphasize on paper qualifications (some parents who were surgeons, lawyers, corporate high fliers with highly impressive application forms were not accepted! Gasp! 😉 All they look for is humility and a willingness to serve. They emphasize alot on commitment because all the above programs require PVs to continuously mentor a child over a period of almost a year. It is very traumatic and disruptive for these children should the PV abandon them halfway through the program.
Generally, the application process is in the first quarter of the year. So, if you are interested in admitting your child into a prestigious school, you should do your research and make your inquiries 2 or even 3 years before your child is due in primary school.
The competition is tough, so good luck!