Parent support activities at international schools in Singapore

sas-international-fair Honeykids Asia Singapore
We've been talking to five international schools about how they help new families feel part of their community..

You’re new to The Lion City, you’ve finally decided between house or condo, checked out your neighbourhood playground and even tried to order your coffee the local way… Welcome to Singapore! So, now you need to make some friends and feel like a part of the community, and one of the best ways to achieve that? Through your child’s school! We’ve been speaking to some of the top international schools in Singapore about how they make new families feel welcome, what parent support activities are on offer to help settle newcomers, and getting their hot tips on making your transition to this tropical island a happy one.

Singapore American School – Amy McBride (PTA Welcome Committee Chair)
How does your school help parents feel welcome and become a part of the school community?
Singapore American School (SAS) has a very robust Parent Teacher Association (PTA) welcome committee that begins the welcome process before school even starts. The PTA organizes a buddy family program that matches existing families with new families. Put simply, the program helps to ease the transition into SAS, as well as Singapore if families have just arrived. Our free, school-wide Welcome Back BBQ is planned early in the school year, and quickly immerses new families into the SAS community. In addition, New Family Welcome Coffees’ are hosted at the beginning of the school year so that everyone can feel immediately feel welcomed, connected and engaged in the SAS community.

What opportunities are there at the school for parents to get involved with school activities?
The PTA is a volunteer organisation that strives to enhance and enrich the SAS experience for students and their families. Membership is automatically conferred on any family who has a child enrolled at SAS. Throughout the school year there are several opportunities for involvement, which include year long commitments, such as chair for a committee or grade level room parents, or volunteering for a role for a specific event, such as our annual Welcome Back BBQ, International Fair or Staff Appreciation Day.

What advice do you have for parents new to the country to help them settle into the school community?
SAS believes it is important that the whole family be part of the welcome process. Our advice parents new to Singapore is to quickly engage and attend the events that are specially designed to help the process. SAS also partners with an external organisation to offer a “Living in Singapore” talk that gives an overview of a wide range of topics, as well as a free book detailing all the information they need. Parents are encouraged to attend events right from the start, which will put them in a better positioned to feel connected to the SAS community.

GEMS World Academy Singapore Honeykids Asia

GEMS World Academy (Singapore)

GEMS World Academy (Singapore) – Shelley Hamilton, Parents Relationship Executive

How does your school help parents feel welcome and become a part of the school community?
Creating a family oriented school community is a core value of GEMS (Singapore). Parent engagement within our community is not only about creating a community but is also important for student learning. Our Parent Engagement Programme connects parents with the world of formal education. Monthly parent engagement activities provide a variety of workshop opportunities to assist parents in understanding and supporting their children further. This simple daily strategy develops more engaged parenting and a better understanding of what children are doing at school. Parents are also encouraged to play an active part in their child’s learning whether through being a class representative, volunteer during school excursions or active member of the school community.

What opportunities are there at the school for parents to get involved with school activities?
GEMS (Singapore) encourages parents to volunteer as a member of the Parent Teacher Community (PTC). The PTC organises school events like Cultural Day, Book Week, Used Book Sale, etc. The major community event of the year is our Family Fun Day. This is a day full of fun with food trucks, water slides, bouncy castles, the popular ‘Dunk the Teacher’ Dunk Tank and is a day to celebrate the GEMS community.

What advice do you have for parents new to the country to help them settle into the school community?
There can be a lot happening for a family relocating to a new country and joining a new school. This is why our Parent Relations Executive team is here to support our parents. We are always willing to offer advice for settling into Singapore and help to connect with the PTC. We encourage our new families to attend GEMS Parent Coffee Mornings, Parent Engagement Sessions and School Assemblies to meet our supportive community and find new friends.

Blue-House Honeykids Asia Singapore

Blue House

Blue House – Sarah Woon, Head of School

How does your school help parents feel welcome and become a part of the school community?
We strongly believe children should not be isolated in their learning. For young children in particular, parents are their most important educators, followed by our team of Educators and the environment we place children in. Children thrive on a visible partnership between home and school and a team of people who truly believe in them. We provide daily Reflective Journals of class activities for parents to stay current and connected to their children’s learning experiences. Our on site Pantry was built “by parents for parents” as a place where families of Blue House can connect over a cup of coffee or lunch and we encourage families to enjoy this space. We also hold termly Parent Evenings where parents are invited into their children’s classrooms and presented to as a group by their child’s team of Educators, allowing the group to carry a collaborative dialogue and contribute to the children’s body of work.  These are wonderful opportunities to meet other families and feel connected to the school.

What kind of opportunities are there at the school for parents to get involved with school activities?
We recognise “parents as partners” encouraging them to become actively involved in the school through volunteer activities such as reading, joining excursions or finding other ways to add value to the learning experiences of the children. We value each child’s unique voice and place in the world and we invite parents to volunteer their time and energy in sharing of themselves, their background and their diverse experiences with the school community. Our fortnightly community update shares information to all families across the school supporting families in connecting to the learning of the whole school, not just their child’s class. We recognise that everyone in the community has something of value to share to enrich the children’s learning experiences and we look for ways to make this learning visible and felt across the school.

What advice do you have for parents new to the country to help them settle into the school community?
Firstly, choose a school that marries with your values and principles as parents, then you’ll naturally find yourself in a school community with other like-minded children and families.  It should feel like a very natural transition. Join in school events, reach out to other parent volunteers or representatives and get involved in initiatives – such a wonderful way to meet other families. Make yourself known to the school’s administration so they can also offer you information and ways to connect to the community. Many schools like Blue House have social groups or Facebook groups for example, so ask about those initiatives so you can determine how you might like to get involved.  If you can, join in school drop off and pick up (even if eventually the school bus needs to take over!) as you often meet other families at these crossover times. At Blue House, just turn up at the Pantry for a cup of coffee and you’re bound to get talking to other families!

TTS Honeykids Asia Singapore

Tanglin Trust School

Tanglin Trust School – Amanda Merrick, External Relations Executive.

How does your school help parents feel welcome and become a part of the school community?
At Tanglin Trust School, we encourage close home-school links with open communication lines between parents and teachers. New families attend orientation days, and current parents are often invited to spend time in the classroom, for example, cooking, reading or speaking with the children, and to go on school trips. We also have a series of open classroom sessions throughout the year where children share their learning with their parents, as well as more formal Parent Teacher/Student Conferences.

What kind of opportunities are there at the school for parents to get involved with school activities?
Tanglin’s ParentWise programme offers events that provide support, ideas and information, including Educational and Curriculum Support, Parent Wellbeing and Inspirational Speakers. Workshops range from helping your child to manage the digital world, to the importance of sleep, to understanding the legal system in Singapore and the no drama discipline parenting ethos. Alongside sessions for parents, Tanglin also runs Helpful Helper Workshops in the areas of healthy snacks, learning and movement, and reading to young children. As one Infant School parent commented: “The course offered great insight to what is going on in the minds of our children, and provided some brilliant practical tips and skills.”

What advice do you have for parents new to the country to help them settle into the school community?
In addition to developing links with the school through their own child’s learning, there are many opportunities for parents to get involved. Tanglin has a thriving Parent Teacher Association (PTA) who arrange social events that bring the school community together, including the wonderful Christmas Fair, Quiz Night and the Summer Fete. Parents also give back to the Tanglin community by providing work experience placements for Year 10 students, supporting Junior School students in their preparation for the English Speaking Board (ESB) assessments, or celebrating diversity by showcasing their national crafts and cuisine at International Day. No matter how big or small, there are many opportunities for new and seasoned families to feel supported and an integral part of school life.

SAIS Honeykids Asia Singapore

Stamford American International School

Stamford American International School – Simon Cariss, Stamford’s PTA President

How does your school help parents feel welcome and become a part of the school community?
At Stamford American International School we know that the links between student, school and parent are vital to settling into a new school. We ensure new families are supported within the Stamford Community through Orientation Days which provide students and parents a good understanding of the academic year ahead and also a chance to meet other families, meet teachers and explore the campuses.

Stamford’s PTA also runs a ‘welcome to school’ coffee morning at the beginning of each school year where new parents can find out about the events and services organized by Stamford PTA, along with volunteering opportunities. This is also the perfect setting for them to meet other parents.

With over 70 nationalities represented at Stamford we also ensure that new parents have an opportunity to meet families from their home country through the PTA Country Ambassadors program.

What kind of opportunities are there at the school for parents to get involved with school activities?
At Stamford we provide flexible options for all our families to get involved with school activities such as:

  • Visit the PTA and join a Parent Connection Group such as Book Club, Lunch Bunch or Guys Group. The PTA have many groups catering to all interests.
  • Attend one of Stamford’s annual community events like the Village Fair or the Christmas Festival. These are free and open to everyone.

There are also opportunities to volunteer to help out at PTA events throughout the year, including:

  • Family movie night, International Fiesta or the Charity Gala Dinner Dance
  • Join a Community Information Session. These regular events cover topics ranging from curriculum overviews, managing stress, to teens and social media.
  • Come along to a Parent Coffee morning hosted by Stamford’s Superintendent, Dr. Eric Sands each Friday morning.
  • Volunteer to be the Homeroom parent for your child’s class.
  • Sign up to the GetFIT parent program. This is a free health and fitness program for parents and is also another great way to meet other parents.
  • Or simply drop into one of the Parent Cafes and meet other parents, socialize and relax on campus.

Of course Stamford Parents don’t need to be at school to stay connected to our community. Parents can also use a number of online portals or tools to stay connected with the school community and follow our student’s learning journey. We even live stream many sporting and major events.

What advice do you have for parents new to the country to help them settle into the school community?
Get involved! We know that relocating isn’t easy which is why we have a diverse range of opportunities to help our new families settle in and become part of Stamford’s vibrant parent community. We’re confident we have an activity or a group that will cater to any new parent.

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