Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Parent Volunteers at school

The trend nowadays is for parents to volunteer at the school which they would like their children to study in. The popular brand name schools have parents queueing up at their doorsteps, as early as 2 to 3 years before their kids are due to register for primary school, and the slots fill up really fast. Some schools have even gone to the extent of specifying the minimum number of hours the parents have to volunteer (and this is usually over and above that specified by the Ministry of Education) before they would be accepted as a parent volunteer. Due to the sheer numbers, schools can afford to be choosy, selecting those parents with certain expertise to help them.

I know of a doctor who attends to the sick shildren at the sick bay of his son's school once a week. Another parent who is an IT expert, helped configure all the IT requirements of his son's school, in exchange for a place there. Another performed for a school's fund raising concert to get his daughter into the school of his choice. Some schools save on their admin cost by using parent volunteers to help man the school office. Other parents help out as traffic wardens, or school librarians. As a result, schools are able to have substantial monetary savings.

But is this volunteer scheme open to abuse? Definitely! By choosing who they want to do the volunteer work, schools are able to give preferential treatment to those whom they want to accept. Should it not be strictly on a first-come-first-serve basis?

I managed to get my children into their schools the difficult way. For my eldest, we had to ballot. We were lucky! She managed to get into the school of our choice during the ballot. But it was terribly stressful,a s we had no fall back plan. She balloted under Phase 2C, which meant that if she did not get a place at this school of our choice, we would have to put her in whichever school had a vacancy, or worse, to wait for the ministry to post her to a school!! Fortunately, God was watching over her. As it was an all girls school, we had to find another school when it was time to register my son. We decided on a school in which we had an affiliation to. We managed to get him the place without balloting. For our third child, who is not due to start Grade 1 until 2011, we will not have that problem. She can go to her sister's current school (which is c0-ed) or to the all-girls school which we first had her sister enrolled!

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