SINGAPORE: Four secondary schools began operations this year with students and staff from other schools, after they were merged due to low enrolment. The mergers were first announced in July 2014.
To integrate the students and build a new culture, the schools have come up with new initiatives.
Ping Yi Secondary has taken in more than 200 students from Bedok Town Secondary, making it a total of 800 students in 30 classes. About 30 teachers from Bedok Town Secondary have also been moved to Ping Yi.
To help students break the ice, new principal Mr Ang Chee Seng said camps for those from Secondary 1 to 3 have also been brought forward from the 10th week to the first week of school. Teachers have also conducted "circle time" to help students to get to know one another.
“We are aware that the anxiety level might be there, but the excitement is also there. (There is a need) to ensure there is quality time for friendship building, for teachers to know them well enough, for us to be sensitive to the different emotions that can arise. So basically it is a lot more of emotional bank account being built first, and the curriculum can come later," said Mr Ang.
Mr Ang added that with the merger, Ping Yi Secondary is now able to offer more subjects and co-curricular activities (CCAs).
"We also integrated the applied learning subjects, in all secondary schools - we have this distinctive programme," said Mr Ang. "In Ping Yi, we have the niche in design, but in Bedok Town, the ALP (applied learning programme) was in aeronautics, so when we combine the schools, we bring the best of both worlds. We have design and aeronautics engineering, so this is quite exciting."
"We also brought retail operations and electrical technical applications into our school - these were not offered last time, so students have lots to look forward to," he added. "CCAs are also much richer - we have angklung, we have guzheng, we have the choir and floorball as well from Bedok Town."
Mr Ang also said student leaders from both schools will carry out their duties jointly.
A student from Bedok Town has said that some of the initiatives have helped her settle into Ping Yi.
“We need time, I guess, to adjust to the different environment and situation here, but people here are really nice and caring also,” said Rachel Tan, a Secondary 4 student.
“During the holidays, we had a student leader camp, and through this, I managed to make many more new friends with the Ping Yi student leaders and also get to know the school better. So this has been really helpful and because of this, I look forward coming to this school,” added the student council president.
Mr Ang said the school has also pushed back plans to repaint its building, as it wants the new students to have input on the colours. Students from Bedok Town will still have mementoes of their old school. For example, an art installation from Bedok Town has been installed at the entrance of Ping Yi's school hall.
Wood carvings by Bedok Town Secondary students reinstated at Ping Yi's campus. (Photo: Hetty Musfirah)
Ping Yi Secondary also intends to set aside exhibition space to preserve the legacy of Bedok Town Secondary.
KEEPING SCHOOL HERITAGE ALIVE
Keeping heritage alive is also something that Bartley Secondary has set out to do. The school now has 1,200 students, after merging with First Toa Payoh Secondary.
To help students get acquainted, there were ice-breaking activities and a lesson about the history of both schools. The school also made sure students felt welcomed from day one.
“We set out the expectations and telling everyone this is not about us and them, it is now about a new merged entity and everyone should feel welcome,” said principal Mohd Azhar Terimo, “In fact, in 2015, we had our First Toa Payoh students coming in May last year, they came by public transport, they wanted to check out the school and we had a tour and a discussion with me as principal designate, on their concerns and what they looked forward to."
The school has also set up an exhibition space to celebrate the heritage and achievements of First Toa Payoh Secondary.
With the merger, Bartley will be able to provide a wider range of CCAs such as dance and electives such as history and literature.
The school is also bringing forward its student camps. While they used to be held in March, they will now take place in the third week of the first term.
Two other merged schools are also looking to create a new identity for themselves.
Fajar Secondary now has about 900 students, after taking in students from Chestnut Drive Secondary. It is now operating at the premises of Chestnut Drive Secondary, while Fajar's premises off Gangsa Road are undergoing upgrading.
Fajar Secondary students in their new uniform pose for a photo with their teachers. The art installation in the background was done by students of both Fajar Secondary and Chestnut Drive Secondary. (Photo: Hetty Musfirah)
Students of the merged school will start on a clean slate with a new uniform, school song and flag. Staff from both Fajar and Chestnut Drive contributed ideas, and students were taught how to sing the new school song on the first day of school.
Tanglin Secondary will also have a new uniform for its students, after merging with Clementi Woods Secondary. However, not all students are wearing the new uniform yet, as suppliers are still ramping up supplies.
Tanglin Secondary School students wearing their new uniforms. (Photo: Hetty Musfirah)
For now, students have been given two new polo T-shirts each, which can be paired with their old school uniform. The principal said she hopes all students will be wearing the new uniform by the next semester.
The school, which now has more than 1,000 students, is also working on a new logo.