25 November 2020
MORE FAMILIES TO BENEFIT FROM LOWER FEE CAPS
AT 324 CHILDCARE CENTRES APPOINTED AS PARTNER OPERATORS
• More affordable preschools with lower fee caps from 1 January 2021
• A 30% increase in childcare centres on the Partner Operator scheme
• Over 27,000 children expected to benefit
At the National Day Rally 2019, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the Government will ramp up efforts to improve families’ access to affordable and quality preschools. By around 2025, 80 per cent of preschoolers can have a place in a government-supported preschool, up from about 50 per cent in 2019.
Enhanced Partner Operator Scheme with Lower Fee Caps
2. Besides the continued development of preschools by Anchor Operators and MOE Kindergartens in areas of need to expand the provision of government-supported preschool places, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) had in November 2019 launched a call for applications from childcare operators for the next term of the Partner Operator (POP) scheme, which will commence on 1 January 2021.
3. Under the new five-year POP term, ECDA will provide funding support to appointed centres to improve the accessibility, affordability and quality of childcare and infant care services. The funding support will enable appointed centres to:
a. Lower the fee caps for Singapore Citizen (SC) children and ensure any fee increases are kept affordable for parents. To enhance affordability, the fee caps for POP centres will be lowered in the new term to $760 and $1,330 per month for full-day childcare and infant care services respectively1, compared to the existing fee caps of $800 and $1,400 per month. Annex A illustrates how much families can expect to save.
b. Invest in improving centre quality through efforts such as attaining certification under the Singapore Pre-school Accreditation Framework (SPARK) and strengthening organisational capabilities.
c. Support attraction and retention of talent to the sector, by investing in continuing professional development for centre leaders and preschool educators.
4. ECDA had received 52 applications from operators/consortia to join the next term of the POP scheme. Applications were received from a range of commercial and not-for-profit operators, including operators on the current term of POP scheme.
A 30% Increase in POP Centres to Benefit Families
5. After carefully evaluating the applications, ECDA has appointed 324 centres to the new POP term, 30% more centres compared to the current POP term. The centres are run by 29 operators/consortia, 7 of which are new to the POP scheme. On the whole, they comprise a diversity of commercial and not-for-profit operators – with centres in locations all across Singapore – and thus provide choice for parents. Refer to Annex B for the list of appointed POP centres and operators.
6. Over 27,000 Singaporean children are expected to benefit from the expanded POP scheme. This is 7,000 (or 35%) more than the current term of POP scheme.
Enhancing Preschool Accessibility, Affordability and Quality
7. The expansion of the POP scheme to benefit more families builds on recent preschool subsidy enhancements which were implemented from 1 January 2020. Families now pay less for preschool, as the income ceiling for childcare and infant care Additional Subsidy was raised from $7,500 a month to $12,000 a month. Subsidy amounts were also increased across all eligible income tiers.
8. As the capacity of government-supported preschools grows over the medium term, ECDA aims to lower fee caps further at government-supported preschools so that working families with a child in full-day childcare will, after Basic Subsidy, pay around the equivalent of primary school fees plus after-school student care fees, which currently total around $300 per month. This is before means-tested preschool subsidies are applied.
9. The Government is committed to improving access to affordable and quality preschool services. Overall, the Government’s annual spending on the early childhood sector is expected to increase significantly to more than double over the next few years, from around $1 billion in 2018.
1All fees cited are before GST.
Illustration of Fee Savings for Families under the New Partner Operator Term
(1 Jan 2021 – 31 Dec 2025)
Example A: A centre which is currently on the POP scheme charges $856 per month for Singapore Citizen children on full-day childcare (i.e. at the current fee cap of $800, plus GST). Starting 1 Jan 2021 under the new POP term, this centre will be required to lower its fees to $813 per month (i.e. at new fee cap of $760, plus GST). Families with children who attend this centre will save $43 per month.
For a GST-registered centre:
If the centre is not GST-registered, families can save up to $40 per month.
Example B: A centre which is currently not on the POP scheme charges $1,070 per month for Singapore Citizen children on full-day childcare. Once this centre becomes an appointed POP centre on 1 Jan 2021, it will be required to lower its fees to $813 per month (i.e. at new fee cap of $760, plus GST). Families with children who attend this centre will save $257 per month.
For a GST-registered centre:
If the centre is not GST-registered, families can save up to $240 per month.
Note: Subsidy refers to Basic and Additional Subsidy for childcare (for working mothers).
You may view the list of POPs (under the 2021-2025 term) here..
Frequently Asked Questions
Overview of Preschool Affordability
1. What is the Government doing to enhance preschool affordability?
The Government is pursuing three sets of measures to enhance affordability.
First, we have enhanced means-tested childcare subsidies and the Kindergarten Fee Assistance Scheme (KiFAS) provided to parents, by increasing the monthly household income eligibility to $12,000 from $7,500 (for childcare) or $6,000 (KiFAS); and increasing the amount of subsidy provided for each eligible tier. This took effect from 1 January 2020.
Second, we are expanding government-supported preschool places, so that parents will benefit from greater access to affordable and quality preschool services. 80 per cent of preschoolers can have a place in a government-supported preschool by around 2025, up from just over 50 per cent today. This will involve expanding the number of places provided by Partner Operators, Anchor Operators, and a small number of MOE Kindergartens.
Third, we will lower the fee caps of government-supported preschools, starting with the next term of the Partner Operator scheme from 1 January 2021. Over the medium term, as the capacity of government-supported preschools grows, we aim to lower fee caps further at government-supported preschools so that working families with a child in full-day childcare will, after Basic Subsidy, pay around the equivalent of primary school fees plus after-school student care fees, which currently total around $300 per month. This is before means-tested preschool subsidies are applied.
Childcare Partner Operator (POP) Scheme
2. When do the current and new terms of the POP scheme end?
The current POP term commenced in January 2016 and will end in December 2020. The new POP term will commence in January 2021 and will end in December 2025.
3. Did ECDA set a target on the number of operators/centres to appoint to the new term of the POP scheme? If so, did ECDA meet its target?
ECDA aimed to appoint a larger number of POP childcare centres for the new term, compared to the current 250 centres. However, the eventual number of operators/centres appointed was contingent on the suitability of the operators/centres to meet the requirements of the POP scheme in providing accessible, affordable and quality preschool services in areas of demand.
4. Were all existing operators from the first term of the POP scheme automatically appointed onto the next term of the POP scheme? Was there any difference in the application process between operators on the existing POP scheme, and operators who are not?
All interested operators, whether new or existing POP, were required to follow the same open competitive process. ECDA evaluated all applications objectively and centres must fare well in the evaluation to be appointed or re-appointed onto the next term of the scheme.
5.Will ECDA allow appointed POP operators to open new centres during the funding term in order to benefit more parents?
Applications to add new centres by appointed POP operators will be evaluated by ECDA on a case-by-case basis.
6. How long will the new fee caps be in place for?
The new fee caps will be in place for the entire five-year term of the Partner Operator scheme, from 1 January 2021 to 31 December 2025.
7. Can POP centres raise fees during the 5-year POP term?
POP centres are required to keep their fees within the fee caps throughout the POP term’s entire duration. POP centres which are charging at the fee caps are not permitted to raise fees during the POP term.
POP centres which are charging below the fee caps are not permitted to raise fees for at least 2021. Any fee increase thereafter is subject to the fee cap (centres may have to do so to cope with rising costs and ensure long-term financial sustainability). Should these centres do so, they must ensure that any fee increases are kept affordable for parents.