The following question stood in the name of Ms He Ting Ru –
9 To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development (a) whether there are any standard training, support or security measures in place for staff of preschools or childcare service providers regulated by the Early Childhood Development Agency to handle unexpected security incidents; and (b) if so, whether any further updates will be made to these measures.
10 Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song asked the Minister for Social and Family Development (a) what physical security measures are preschools and childcare centres required to put in place to detect and prevent intrusions by unauthorised persons; (b) whether the Ministry regularly checks that these measures are being implemented across all centres; and (c) whether these measures are sufficient to prevent persons with criminal intent from entering the centres and harming staff and children.
Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song (Aljunied): Question No 9, please.
The Minister of State for Social and Family Development (Ms Sun Xueling) (for the Minister for Social and Family Development): Mr Speaker, Sir, if I may take Question Nos 9 and 10 together?
Mr Speaker: Yes, please.
Ms Sun Xueling: The safety of children in our preschools is of utmost importance. The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) has regulations that require preschools to put in place measures to protect children and staff from security threats.
All preschools are required to keep their premises secured to prevent any unauthorised personnel from entering the centre. Most preschools use electronic locks at the entrance and visitors are only allowed entry after checks. Every preschool must have procedures in place to check and record the entry and exit of all persons.
All preschools are also required to establish standard operating procedures (SOPs) to handle safety-related incidents, injuries and emergency evacuation during a crisis. Emergency evacuation exercises for all children and staff in preschools must be conducted every six months. Such exercises ensure staff and children are familiar with the processes and are able to respond quickly during a crisis like fire, terrorist attack or bomb threat. It also enables preschools to validate and strengthen their SOPs.
ECDA’s licensing officers conduct regular licensing and supervisory visits to ensure preschools comply with our regulatory measures to keep their children safe and secure. ECDA also reviews regularly the regulatory requirements for preschools and will update them as necessary.
ECDA collaborates with the Singapore Police Force (SPF) to organise Counter Terrorism seminars for preschools under SGSecure. Preschools are also advised to adopt SGSecure advisories, such as “Run-Hide-Tell” and “Press-Tie-Tell”, which MHA shares with the public and organisations to build vigilance and preparedness against terrorism.
Despite the best efforts by ECDA and our preschools to ensure the safety of children and staff, untoward incidents may still occur. So, apart from preventive measures, preschools, parents and the wider community must stay vigilant and be prepared to handle such incidents should they occur.
More fundamentally, it is important to continue to ensure that our society is safe, for example, by having strict controls over gun ownership and maintaining our zero-tolerance stance towards illicit drugs. Otherwise, it would not just be security in preschools that we have to worry about, but the security for the whole of society.
Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song (Aljunied): Mr Speaker, I extend my deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the tragic shootings in Thailand which involved children in preschool centres.
In Singapore, during preschool dismissal times, it is common for a large number of caregivers to be fetching their children at the same time and it is difficult for teachers to identify each and every caregiver, and they are likely to use their own subjective judgement to decide whether to open the door to the centre and release the child to the caregiver.
Can I ask the Minister of State whether all preschools are required by regulation to have their doors locked at all times and unlocked only for authorised persons, whose identity is authenticated by the centre staff, and are they required to maintain a list of pre-designated caregivers who are allowed to fetch the children? If these are not spelt out for the preschool centres, could ECDA assess if these enhanced security measures are necessary to ensure the safety of our very young children?
Ms Sun Xueling: I thank the Member for his supplementary question. As I had mentioned earlier in my main reply, most preschools use electronic locks at the entrance and visitors as well as people leaving the centre, they are only allowed to do so when there is a proper check and balance of who these persons are. Though you have mentioned that there are large numbers of people gathered, potentially, at dismissal time. Actually, not all the children leave the preschool at the same time, we have seen staggered dismissal timings as well.
I am quite sure that the Member, myself included, we have been to these preschools when it is dismissal time and we have seen that actually, the teacher allows the students to go only after the teacher takes a look at who is the caregiver who is there to pick up the child. Most schools also would take note of who the caregiver is who picks up the child and there are also instances where, if the caregiver is not someone that the school recognises, the school actually checks in with the family.
Ministry of Social and Family Development
20 October 2022