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ECDA Finds Kinderland HQ Failed to Oversee its Centres Properly; Directs Corrective Actions to Be Sustained

Type: Press Releases, All

Topic(s): Children & Families, Other Updates, All


1. The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) has reviewed the report by an Independent Review Committee (IRC) commissioned by Kinderland to examine the child mismanagement incidents at two of its centres. Based on inputs from the IRC’s report, ECDA has assessed that Kinderland Headquarters (HQ) had failed to exercise effective oversight over its centres’ staff training and supervision. 

2. ECDA has since directed Kinderland HQ to ensure all corrective actions are properly implemented in all its centres and sustained to prevent recurrence of similar incidents. 

3. For the child mismanagement incidents at Kinderland @ Woodlands Mart and Kinderland @ Sunshine Place, ECDA took actions against the teachers involved and their centre leaders. Kinderland was given a financial penalty of $10,000 ($5,000 for incidents at each centre) and the licenses of both centres were immediately shortened from 36 to 6 months for close monitoring by ECDA. ECDA has also rejected Kinderland’s recent application to add a new centre into the Partner Operator Scheme (POP). 

4. Separately, following investigations by the Singapore Police Force, the former educator from Kinderland @ Woodlands Mart has been charged with one count of ill-treatment of a child or young person and the court case is ongoing. The former educator at Kinderland @ Sunshine Place was administered a 12-month conditional warning.

5. To ensure that the corrective measures directed by ECDA at the two Kinderland centres are sustained, ECDA will continue to limit their licence tenures to 6 months when the licences expire in March 2024, and closely monitor all Kinderland centres. In addition, Kinderland must share the lessons learnt from the incidents with the rest of the Early Childhood (EC) sector. This will enable all preschool operators to reflect and learn from this episode, review their own internal systems and processes and identify areas for improvement.  Collectively, we can prevent incidents of child mismanagement in our preschools.

6. “ECDA has zero tolerance for inappropriate management of children in our preschools. All operators, centres and educators are expected to do their part to keep children safe. The Kinderland incidents have revealed its HQ’s failure to exercise effective oversight of its centres’ staff training and supervision. It is therefore crucial that Kinderland HQ properly implements and sustains corrective actions across its centres to prevent child mismanagement from happening,” said Mr Tan Chee Wee, Chief Executive Officer of ECDA.

Measures to Strengthen Child-Safe Systems and Processes in Kinderland’s Centres  

7. Following the child mismanagement incidents last year, ECDA has been closely monitoring all Kinderland centres through more frequent unannounced checks on their classroom management practices. ECDA notes that immediate corrective actions have been implemented in all Kinderland centres following the incidents and will continue with stepped-up supervisory visits to ensure that Kinderland sustains these measures. To ensure that corrective measures are sustained, ECDA will continue to limit the licence tenure for the two Kinderland centres to 6 months when the licences expire in March 2024, and closely monitor all Kinderland centres.

8. In addition to immediate corrective actions, Kinderland has implemented measures to address system gaps in staff training, supervision and execution of its whistleblowing policy across all its centres (see Annex A). ECDA will closely monitor Kinderland and ensure its HQ effectively implements these measures to enable (a) adequate oversight of all its centres, (b) a feedback loop to pinpoint gaps in processes and trigger timely intervention and rectification; and (c) close monitoring and tracking to ensure all staff have the knowledge and competency to keep children safe and minimise child mismanagement incidents. 

Multiple safeguards in place to keep children safe

9. To ensure child safety in preschools, educators must have the necessary training and professionalism to work with young children and be clear of their obligations to protect children and report inappropriate practices. Centre leaders must ensure effective supervision and guidance so that child-safe processes are carried out correctly and consistently. Lastly, operators must ensure there are effective systems in place to provide oversight of their centre(s) and trigger timely intervention when there is an issue. Operators must also foster a culture where all staff are empowered to stop inappropriate practices and report these in a timely manner.

10. ECDA has taken various steps to strengthen safeguards for child safety:

a. Amended the Code of Practice to provide preschool operators and staff with clear examples of prohibited actions and highlight their obligation to stop and report inappropriate practices by other staff.

b. Worked with the National Institute of Early Childhood Development and other EC training providers to strengthen educator training in both prohibited and positive child management strategies.

c. Strengthened its investigation protocol to ensure better oversight of cases under investigation.

d. Commenced a review of the penalty provisions for errant operators, which includes imposing stiffer fines for child mismanagement cases.

11. ECDA will continue to work with preschool operators, centres and educators to ensure they understand their obligations to protect children from harm, failing which firm actions will be taken against anyone for non-compliance. 

ISSUED BY
EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT AGENCY

About the Early Childhood Development Agency

The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) was set up in 2013. The autonomous agency oversees the regulation and development of infant, childcare and kindergarten programmes for children below the age of seven. To achieve their vision of giving every child a good start, the agency works in partnership with stakeholders to ensure that every child has access to affordable and quality early childhood development services and programmes. 

Annex A - Kinderland’s Measures to Strengthen Child-Safe Systems and Processes