Article from NTUC This Week, published on 2 October 2016
At My First Skool, the Child Support Model aims to provide assistance to every child who needs it.
By Shukry Rashid
Preschoolers in My First Skool (MFS) who have various needs will not be left behind while others progress on the education journey. More support is coming their way to meet financial, developmental and social needs through the Child Support Model (CSM).
More than $5 million will be invested into the initiative, with funds coming from NTUC First Campus’ own reserves, the Government and the Bright Horizons Fund.
MFS has supported more than 8,000 needy children over the last five years.
MFS ensures that children from all backgrounds are catered to, paying special attention to those who need help the most.
MFS provides children from low-income families with priority placement at its centres. According to NTUC First Campus CEO Chan Tee Seng, 16.5 per cent of its enrolment in 2016 made up this priority placement.
It has also established the new job role of Child Enabling Executive (CEE) under the KidStart initiative to monitor the well-being of these children while encouraging them to attend preschool regularly.
There are currently 40 CEEs employed by MFS who come from multi-disciplinary backgrounds such as education, therapy and social work.
The KidStart centre at Chin Swee Road is one of seven operated by MFS, and it supports some 220 children. Plans are in the pipeline to further expand the initiative next year.
Preschool teachers and CEEs from these centres also work with early interventionists to support the social development of children.
If we really want to impact society, we have to start early and invest in their early years.
– NTUC First Campus CEO Chan Tee Seng
CEEs may also be deployed to other MFS centres with a higher number of children from low-income families to work with community partners such as family service centres and social service offices.
This is to provide social support to vulnerable families through giving parenting advice, career counselling and provision of household items.
In meeting the social needs of children, upbringing at home matters too. Therefore, MFS has introduced the “Parenting Years” series of workshops to equip parents with practical parenting skills with the aim of helping them foster closer bonds with their children.
MFS preschoolers with mild developmental needs will also benefit from early intervention programmes in the form of learning support and therapy. These will help children in areas such as language, literacy and social skills. Mr Chan said that early intervention is crucial.
“If we really want to impact society, we have to start early and invest in their early years,” he added.
One programme that is already in place is the Development Support Programme, which is conducted by in-house Learning Support Educators and external therapists. Preschoolers in this programme will go through either a one-to-one instruction or small group sessions.
Some 860 children from low-income families received financial assistance from MFS in 2016. Parents with dire financial difficulties pay fees as little as $4 per month after subsidies from the Bright Horizons Fund.
The fund will also pay for expenses such as enrichment classes, birthday celebrations, uniforms and school bags for children from low-income families. This is so that these less fortunate children will not be deprived of a happy childhood experience.