We Singaporeans are known for being notoriously kiasu when it comes to enrolling our kids into primary school during the P1 Registration period every year.
So afraid are we of jeopardising our kids’ future by placing them in the ‘wrong’ school, that the main criteria for placements in a primary school—living within a 1 kilometer radius—also becomes the main criteria in property search.
It’s not uncommon to see young couples instructing their agent upfront that they want to find a home within 1km of, say, Tao Nan School because they want that’s where they want to their child to eventually study.
Explaining the P1 registration process in a concise manner and the odds of getting into a popular school, this article explains why ‘living within 1km of primary school’ is such a big deal.
The quick guide to P1 registration and distance priority
If your child is lucky, they can register for a given school in Phase 1 and get an immediate and guaranteed placement. This is reserved for children who already have sibling(s) studying in the same school. Being eligible for Phase 2A(1) and 2A(2) also virtually assures your child of a place. The Ministry of Education (MOE) website gives more details about the requirements for each phase.
After Phase 2A(2), the remaining vacancies are split equally between Phases 2B and 2C. Phase 2B, the phase where we see parents stepping up as volunteers/community leaders to increase their child’s chances of placement, will take place first.
If there are vacancies left at the end of Phase 2B, the remaining places will be carried forward to Phase 2C. If there are more applications then vacancies, balloting will be held.
When balloting does happen in phases 2B and 2C, the priority sequence is based on distance to the school:
- Singaporean Citizens (SCs) living within 1km of the school
- SCs living between 1km and 2km of the school
- SCs living further than 2km from the school
- Permanent Residents (PRs)* living within 1km of the school
- PRs living between 1km and 2km of the school
- PRs living further than 2km from the school
*MOE recently announced a cap on PR intake for 10 schools.
Most applicants for primary schools fall under Phase 2B or 2C. In short, having an address within 1km of the school puts you at the top of the list if balloting is required, which is usually the case with popular schools.
So if there’s any particular school that your child must die die get into and you’re not living within 1km of it, it’s time to fire up 99.co and begin your property search.
On 99.co, all you need to do is select ‘Choose Schools’ when prompted in the search bar, select your school(s) of choice, set the desired distance to the school (the default is 1km) and click ‘Apply Filters’. You may also add other filters, such as price range and property type (e.g. HDB).
Fact: For popular schools, it’s near impossible to get a placement in Phase 2C if you’re not within 1km
To give you a sense of how hard it is, you can check among schools that show the registration rates. At Tao Nan School, for example, there were 62 applicants fighting over 36 places in Phase 2C in 2019. Out of all 62 applicants, 61 were living within 1km, and the lone applicant who lived between 1 and 2km of the school stood zero chance of being admitted.
Also, back in 2019, a whopping 87 schools needed balloting; so don’t assume that your child will be a shoo-in even if you’re not after an “elite” school. Here’s the Top 10 list of the Most Oversubscribed Schools in Phase 2C in 2019:
|Rank||Primary School||Location||Phase 2C Ballot Status||Vacancy||Applied||Ratio*|
|1||Nan Hua||Clementi||SC within 1km needs to ballot||20||96||4.80|
|2||Nan Chiau||Sengkang||SC within 1km needs to ballot||61||235||3.85|
|3||Rosyth||Serangoon North||SC within 1km needs to ballot||20||76||3.80|
|4||Rulang||Jurong West||SC within 1km needs to ballot||24||84||3.50|
|5||West Spring||Bukit Panjang||SC within 1km needs to ballot||31||105||3.39|
|6||South View||Choa Chu Kang||SC within 1km needs to ballot||52||154||2.96|
|7||Northland||Yishun||SC within 1km needs to ballot||83||243||2.93|
|8||Punggol Green||Punggol||SC within 1km needs to ballot||51||147||2.88|
|9||Chongfu||Yishun||SC within 1km needs to ballot||51||144||2.82|
|10||Temasek||Bedok||SC within 1km needs to ballot||21||55||2.62|
*Ratio based on 2019 Phase 2C No of. Applications/No. of Remaining Vacancies
Note that you can’t game the P1 Registration system as there are rules in place.
The home-to-school distance is determined by the address on the parents’ NRICs. This is also the official residential address to be used in the P1 Registration exercise.
Under MOE rules, a child who gains priority admission into a school through the home-school distance category (i.e. Phases 2B and 2C) is required to reside at the address used for registration for at least 30 months from the start date of the annual P1 Registration exercise.
The government has grown wise to many shenanigans over the years, such as buying a property near the school to get your child placed, and then moving out and renting out the place right afterward. Or temporarily renting a unit near the school just to use the address, but never staying there yourself (e.g. subletting it to someone else).
Our advice? Don’t do it. MOE Officers conduct spot checks on the registered addresses, and there was a case where a father was charged in court. Yes, it’s a jailable offence.
But what if your home is under construction (e.g. a new launch condo)?
If your new home is not yet built (i.e. the Temporary Occupation Permit is not issued yet), then you must produce the Sale & Purchase Agreement as proof. In addition, you must move into the property within two years of your children entering the school, failing which your children will be transferred out (ouch). So if you’re buying a new launch condo, please take note of the TOP date.
The safer option, in our opinion, is to just rent a home within 1km of your school of choice for a lease duration of 2.5 years (from the date of P1 Registration). To be on the safe side, we recommend a lease period of three years, during which you can rent out your permanent home.
Here’s a cool tip: Even if you own an existing HDB flat, you can rent another whole flat to live in, provided the existing flat’s Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) is over and you rent it out within a month of renting the new flat.
If, in the period after P1 registration, there are circumstances (e.g. divorce, financial issues) that require the child to move out of the registered residential address and outside of the 1km radius of the school, MOE needs to be notified. Your situation will then be assessed on a case-by-case basis, and more often than not your child will be allowed to stay on in the same school, rather than having to be transferred out.
An important concern is your property value, after your child’s schooling is done
After those six years of primary school, what comes next? Well, if your property is within 1km of a good school, there’s a high chance another—who was once in your position—will come looking. That bodes well for your property value, as well as its rentability.
Now the last in-depth study for this was in 2015, by the National University of Singapore (NUS). It was found that, if a school were to leave the area, private homes saw price declines of 8.5% within 1km, and 12. 2% in the 1km to 2km radius. HDB flats fared better, but still saw losses of 5.1% in the 1km radius, and 2.4% in the 1km to 2km radius.
So, while a property in proximity to a popular school will also appeal to other groups of buyers, such as singles and investors, because of their resale value and rentability, other attributes and amenities are also important to help the home sustain its value in the event that the school relocates.
An example of primary school relocation is Nan Chiau Primary School, which moved from the former River Valley location to Sengkang town in 2001.
Other key things to note when getting a property within 1km of a school
- It might be worth it to pay attention to properties that is within 1km of more than a single school. Some homes even have FIVE schools within a 1km radius. You can do a reverse search and discover the number of schools within 1km of an address via Onemap.sg
- Check if there’s a convenient route to the school, when picking between different developments nearby. Two different condos may both be within 1km, but one of them may have a more direct route
- Make sure the school is really right for your child before you move. Visit a school’s Open House, for example, and speak to the teachers and parents who have children studying there
- A rule of thumb is to try and be within 1km, but not any closer than 300 metres to avoid congestion during the hour before and after school. Properties closest to the school compound may also be noiser throughout the day
- If you live in or intend to buy a property in a yet-to-be-fully-developed area, check the URA Master Plan map to find out whether any schools may be coming up. School sites are colour-coded pale yellow with the letter ‘E’, and smaller plots tend to mean future primary schools. However, the Master Plan does not specify when schools will be built—that’s up to the government to announce
[Recommended article: URA Master Plan for Property Buyers: How to understand it]
Even if you don’t have a child, having a school nearby is a key consideration.
Because again, having good schools nearby increases demand for your property. It also helps that the government maintains very ‘clean’ areas around school zones (e.g. no sleazy massage parlours), and nearby commercial properties tend to jump on the bandwagon (e.g. childcare/enrichment centres move in as well). These are all good for long term property appreciation!
Does ‘within 1km of a primary school’ factor into your property search criteria? Let us know in the comments below!
If you liked this article, 99.co recommends HDB’s Proximity Housing Grant (PHG): All You Need to Know and 5 Condos Under $1k psf Near MRT stations, AND Reputable Schools
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