Surviving the Great P1 Ballot

Getting the place for your child need not be a massive headache – with some advance planning.


Entering Primary One is the first step that will see Singaporean children prepped for 10 years of a competitive education system. As it is a high-stakes exercise, anxious parents study the registration process as if they are running the race themselves. 

When parents compare schools, they can unconsciously get sucked into how prestigious a school sounds on a child’s report. The key is to respect your child. A brand name school that offers Higher Chinese may not work for a child who is not keen on Chinese. Instead, go for a school that offers Chinese at a pace your child can enjoy.

I followed the crowd and enrolled my daughter in a brand name kindergarten, only to find her hating school for two years because of constant comparisons by a teacher who deplored her language ability. For her Primary One registration, I was determined to undo the damage. I decided to go with a learning culture that I believed would work for her quiet temperament – it took up to Primary 4 to get her to be more confident with her language.

When to start

Yes, such decisions need to be thought out. It can be daunting for one parent to handle, so both parents should work with each other. Before reading forums and blogs for various registration experiences, your stay-sane primer is the Primary One Registration website at

Apart from your child’s birth cert, it also tells your what documentation you need to bring for the phase you are eligible for.

Don’t put all your dreams in one basket. For planning your Plan A and Plan B scenarios, use this list of schools in different estates at this link:

How it works

The registration process consists of seven phases, depending on the parents’ connection to the school of choice.

If you are eligible for one phase but unfortunately forget or fail to register, you will have to register in the next phase. With each phase, the longer you take to know for sure if your child is admitted to the school or schools you choose, the greater the level of uncertainty for you. So plan ahead and spare yourself the nagging fears.

The seven phases are as listed, with Phase 2B and 2C as the most stressful for most parents: 

Phase 1: For children with siblings who are already studying at the primary school of choice. This would have been completed by this week (Jul 3). 

Phase 2A (1): For children of parents who are former students and who have joined the alumni association not later than 30 June 2014. (Note to ed: delete  following line if necessary) This is also for children of members of the school advisory or management committee.

Phase 2A (2): For children whose siblings or parents used to study at the school of choice. (Note to ed: delete  following line if necessary) This is also for children who have a parent who is a staff member of the school.

Phase 2B: For children whose parent has volunteered for 40 hours at the school of choice by 30 June 2015; and who had joined not later than 1 July 2014. This is also for children with a parent with church or clan connections with the school.

Phase 2C and Phase 2C Supplementary: For children who have not registered for P1 in the following year.

Phase 3: For children whose parents are not Singapore Citizens or Permanent Residents.

The registration dates for Phases 2A(1) to Phase 3 are held sequentially from 7 July this year to 13 August. Parents can register at only one school at any one time or they may lose the place they get.

To ensure access to children whose parents are not alumni, primary schools also have to reserve 40 places to be split evenly between Phase 2B and Phase 2C.

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Photo: INGimages