330 childcare centres to raise full-day fees in 2020: ECDA

330 childcare centres to raise full-day fees in 2020: ECDA

About 330 childcare centres in Singapore will be raising their fees for full-day childcare for Singapore citizens next year, said the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA). Vanessa Lim reports.

SINGAPORE: About 330 childcare centres in Singapore will be raising their fees for full-day childcare for Singapore citizens next year, said the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA).

In response to media queries, the agency said they form about one-fifth of the total number of childcare centres in Singapore.

The median increase is "within five per cent of fees" and “broadly comparable” to previous years, said ECDA.

All pre-schools are required to inform parents and ECDA of any increase in fees by Sep 1 of the preceding year, so that parents can make an informed choice about their child’s preschool.

In Parliament earlier this month, Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee was asked how the ministry plans to manage fee increases from pre-school operators in light of the new subsidies announced.

The subsidies, announced on Aug 28, will provide more support for parents across all eligible income tiers. For example, families with a gross monthly income of S$3,000 will pay S$3 a month, down from S$70, per child at anchor operator pre-schools.

In his response, the minister said that anchor and partner operators – which provide slightly over half of all pre-school places – are required to follow fee caps stipulated by ECDA, and “are required to ensure that any fee increase is moderate and their fees do not exceed the caps”.

While he noted that the fee caps for anchor and partner operators have been “maintained at their current levels” since 2014 and 2016 respectively, “each year, some anchor operator or partner operator centres that charge below the fee caps may make some moderate fee adjustments to maintain sustainability”.

READ: Calls for new pre-school partner operators to begin end of this year: Desmond Lee

He added that private and not-for-profit operators are not subject to fee caps, and have the flexibility to determine their fees.

“We recognise that fees may be adjusted from time to time in response to market conditions and operational costs. By and large, most pre-schools seek to ensure that their fee increases are not excessive, in order to remain competitive and attractive to parents,” said Mr Lee.

Additionally, the Government will also look into lowering fee caps for government-supported pre-schools, he added.

READ: NDR 2019: More pre-school subsidies as Singapore set to spend more on early childhood education

“DEFRAY RISING OPERATING COSTS”

Of the childcare centres that CNA spoke to, My First Skool, Star Learners and PAP Community Foundation (PCF) said they would be raising fees for certain centres.

PCF - which is the largest pre-school operator - said that they would make fee adjustments at a few centres "operating well below the anchor operator fee caps stipulated by ECDA".

It added that the parents of affected children were already informed in July of the changes.

A My First Skool spokesperson said: “For 2020, we are making slight fee adjustments at some remaining centres to progressively standardise our fees across the network.”

Effectively, this means that My First Skool centres charging below the S$720 fee cap for full-day childcare under the Anchor Operator Scheme will be adjusted to meet the cap.

It added that low-income families can receive additional financial support from the school through their Bright Horizons Fund.

My First Skool runs more than 140 centres across various locations in Singapore.

Star Learners – which has 35 out of its 41 childcare centres on the Partner Operator (POP) Scheme – said that it announced its fee adjustment for next year to selected parents on Sep 1.

“This recent fee adjustment, which ranged between S$20 and S$90 monthly, did not apply to all children of Star Learners. It was applicable mainly to Star Learners centres that were offering monthly school fees below the Star Learners published rates,” the centre said.

The fee adjustments affected about 4 per cent of their roughly 3,000 children, it added.

Star Learners explained that it reviews school fees every year to “defray rising operating costs” and to “continue providing good quality childcare and education for the children”.

“Fee adjustments take into consideration factors such as location and rental costs of centres, POP status of centres, staff salaries, and other operating expenditures,” said a spokesperson.

Under the POP Scheme, Star Learners’ monthly fees are capped at S$800 for Singaporean citizens, and the centre said that it plans to follow the fee caps to be implemented in 2021.

Two other anchor operators - E-Bridge Pre-school and Skool4Kidz – said that they will not be increasing fees over the next year.

A spokesperson for E-Bridge Pre-school - which runs 17 centres - said that its fees are already at the S$720 fee cap for anchor operators. Any increase in costs will be absorbed by E-Bridge Pre-school instead, it added.

CNA also reached out to the PAP Community Foundation on whether it would be raising pre-school fees, but did not receive a response.

Source: CNA/cc

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