SINGAPORE: Parents of Singaporean pre-schoolers will get 50 per cent off their nett school fees for a month, for children who are not attending classes during the "circuit breaker" period.
"The offset will be effected from the May 2020 invoice for parents," said the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and the Ministry of Education (MOE) in a joint news release on Monday (Apr 6).
The 50 per cent fee offset applies to parents' out-of-pocket fees, after subsidies.
MSF had said on Saturday that the Government will not mandate the refund of pre-school fees during the closures from Apr 8 to May 4.
READ: COVID-19: Singapore makes 'decisive move' to close most workplaces and impose full home-based learning for schools, says PM Lee
However, authorities have reviewed the situation, with Monday's announcement of additional support for workers, businesses and households in the Solidarity Budget revealed by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat.
Under the Solidarity Budget – the third booster amid the COVID-19 situation – the Government will enhance the Jobs Support Scheme by raising the wage subsidy for all firms to 75 per cent of gross monthly wages, for the first S$4,600 of wages paid in April 2020, for each local employee.
READ: Solidarity Budget: Singapore spends another S$5.1b to save jobs, protect livelihoods amid impending circuit breaker rules
“In ordinary circumstances, pre-schools, KCare operators, student care centres (SCCs), special student care centres (SSCCs) and Early Intervention (EI) service providers would find it difficult to offer such fee offsets given the need to sustain wages for staff and other operating costs,” MSF and MOE said.
“However, these are exceptional times and we have reviewed the situation.
“With further Government support given under the latest Solidarity Budget, as well as MSF’s and ECDA’s (Early Childhood Development Agency) continued payment of pre-school and student care fee subsidies, with the automatic waiver of minimum attendance for eligibility for subsidies, all pre-schools, KCare, SCC and SSCC operators and EI service providers should offer fee offsets for the circuit breaker period.”
As part of stricter safe distancing measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, it was announced last Friday that all pre-schools, kindergartens and student care centres will be closed, but will provide limited services for children of parents who have to work and cannot find caregivers.
These include parents in essential services, such as healthcare workers, and those from vulnerable families.
In a media release on Monday, the PAP Community Foundation said it supports the partial offset of school fees for a month.
It added that parents who make use of the limited services provided by Sparkletots pre-schools during the circuit breaker period will have to pay the usual monthly fees.
PAP Community Foundation runs PCF Sparkletots, which is Singapore's largest pre-school operator with close to 360 pre-schools and an enrolment of more than 40,000 children.
"We know this is a tough period for everyone," PCF executive committee chairman Josephine Teo said.
"In this time of extraordinary need, we hope the fee offset goes some way to cushion the impact and help these families emerge stronger.”
Another major operator, NTUC First Campus, said all 167 of its pre-schools will support the measure, with about 19,500 children to benefit from it.
It added that it will be open to about 2,500 children whose parents are working in essential services and who have no alternative care arrangements.
Some pre-schools are offering online resources during the period of closure.
NTUC First Campus said it is making available "interactive home-based learning resources" and parent guides on a portal called Kidzmatters.
Anchor operator E-Bridge Pre-School, which manages 18 centres, also said it will continue to offer home-based learning for all children.
"We understand this is a challenging time for our parents as they work from home and support their children with home-based learning," said managing director Mr Ng Hark Seng.
"We will also work closely with families with intentional learning programmes that will support their child’s learning during this time."