SingaporeMotherhood | Parenting

August 2014

Is it Worth being a Parent Volunteer?

If you do not have any affiliation to your school of choice – you are not an old boy/girl, not an active community leader, and are not a member of a church or a clan that is associated with the school — parent volunteering is probably the best way for you to ensure that your child gets a toe into the school.

By end of June, a year and a half before your child is due to start primary school, parents who wish to qualify to register their child in to the school at Phase 2B (for children who are Singapore Citizens or Singapore Permanent Residents) will need to start fulfilling 40 hours of volunteer time in the school.


This means that if your child starts Primary One in 2016, you should have joined the school as a parent volunteer by 1 July 2014, and completed all 40 hours of voluntary service to the school by 30 June 2015, before the Primary School Registration Exercise begins.

When I meet Cindy Tan, a university lecturer and mother of two, she is getting ready for school dismissal, when she will be in charge of stopping passing vehicles so that children can cross the road.

Cindy is down to her last 10 hours in her commitment. She has done other work for the school as well, administrative tasks such as sorting out registration for internal school activities.

Do note that being a parent volunteer does not confirm a place for your child in the school. It simply gives you the option of registering at an earlier stage. As I type this line, Cindy is crossing her fingers for the balloting process. “It’s really all luck now. I have done all that I can,” she says.

(Update: Cindy managed to secure a place for her daughter in the school. There were 29 applicants for 20 seats. Their daughter’s name was the third one called.)

Over at the opposite end of Singapore, mother of three Lim Pey Ling has played traffic warden at her chosen school from 6.45 to 7.25 a.m. every morning for two weeks. She also chaperoned the Primary One students’ morning walk outside the school compound, and assisted in a two-day student camp.

This last activity is a golden opportunity for parent volunteers, she says, as they can score 9.5 hours in a day instead of compiling hour upon hour of time over separate days.

In order to complete the required hours in time, Pey Ling postponed her family’s June holiday trip and got her husband, who is posted overseas for work, to come back for the two-day camp together with her.

It cost the couple thousands of dollars to change their travel dates and buy new airline tickets but Pey Ling did all that willingly. Sne rationalised, “It is all for my children’s education.” Together, over the two days, Pey Ling and her husband garnered a total of 38 hours of voluntary service (9.5 x 2 x 2 = 38).

Paper Family on Grass. Family Concept
In the end Pey Ling and her husband actually clocked in over 40 hours for the school, but she is eager to continue her services even after her children start Primary One – if they get in.

Thankfully, there was no balloting required for Phase 2B and it is confirmed that her twin boys have places in the school.

Other parent volunteering activity options vary depending on the school. These include book shelving at the library and cleaning the gym. If you cannot make it when the PV coordinator calls, they’ll simply call another parent (from a long list!) to help. You’ll just have to play catch up in time.

Before Pey Ling decided upon this school for her children, she had actually signed up to volunteer at another school about 2.5 km away. Here, out of 120 applicants to be parent volunteers, 30 were selected and 20 were balloted. Pey Ling was not selected. However, she was put on a wait-list in case other parents withdrew. Pey Ling heard that the parents who were activated were strongly ‘advised’ to change their address to within one km of the school — if it wasn’t already so — to bolster their chances.

From P1 Onwards

There are active Parent Support Groups (PSG) in many schools in Singapore. On your child’s first day of school, you will be given a form to volunteer your services to the school.

My daughter is in a mission school, and I have been with the religious studies group here for 1.5 years. There are home makers and flexi-timers among us. Our children are not always in the same class, or even in the same level. But as we work together and learn from each other, I feel that we are contributing to each other’s growth.

The head of our department in the PSG is a lady doctor. She has two children who are now in secondary school. Her schedule is crazy, but still she remains actively involved through social media and in person as well.

If you are desk-bound and still want to be involved, you can offer to be a class representative. Class reps help distribute messages to the rest of the parents though text messages or by e-mail. You can also take leave to assist during Learning Journeys.

Some schools do not accept parent volunteers for Primary One Registration anymore, usually because there are limited spaces available. Parents like Pey Ling appreciate this. “By right the school should not take in too many parent volunteers for Phase 2B because there are applicants from religious affiliation and grassroots to consider too,” she says.

If your school of choice does offer parent volunteering before the Primary One Registration Exercise, and you are thinking about volunteering to get your child a place in a school, do it with an open heart and an open mind. This will give you an opportunity to get to know the school and its people better. You may decide at the end of your sessions that it is not the right fit for your child, and be thankful that you had the chance to find out.

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Is it Worth being a Parent Volunteer?