ACS to set up 5th SPED school in Singapore

ACS(P) to move to Tengah and go co-ed

ACS to set up 5th SPED school in Singapore
The Barker Rd campus where ACS(P) and ACS(Barker) are located. Taken in 2003. Photo credit: Wesley Loh/Memphis West Pictures

Anglo-Chinese School (ACS) and the Ministry of Education (MOE) announced on 9 February 2023 that ACS will set up Singapore’s fifth special education (SPED) school for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder who can offer the National Curriculum.

The yet-to-be-named school will be run by ACS in partnership with Methodist Welfare Services (MWS), the social concerns arm of The Methodist Church in Singapore. By doing so, ACS hopes to fulfil its mission in providing holistic education for a wide and diverse cross-section of society.

The new school will begin operations in 2026 at an interim site that previously housed Chua Chu Kang Secondary School. It will then relocate to its permanent campus at Tengah New Town, tentatively in 2031.

“We are deeply grateful to have this honour of serving students with special needs by providing them with quality education. It is a vision the ACS Board of Governors have had for a long while now and we are truly appreciative that our constant discussions with MOE over the years have culminated in this humbling opportunity to serve humanity in a new way. With access to resources and cutting-edge SPED pedagogies, we aim to contribute to the upliftment of special education in Singapore,” Mr Richard Seow Yung Liang, the Chairman of the ACS Board of Governors, said.

In the same media release, two points took the Methodist community by surprise: ACS (Primary) [ACS(P)] would be relocated to Tengah New Town in 2030, some 12 kilometres away from its current location at Barker Road as part of the wider development of the new residential estate. ACS(P) would also transition to a co-educational (co-ed) institution.

“From its founding, Bishop Oldham’s vision for ACS was to serve the needs of the nation and the community by filling a critical gap and to develop servant leaders. With the changes announced by MOE today, we are strengthening the school’s commitment to these values. ACS has always set out to be a beacon of truth and light, to serve those most in need and this is best done by increasing the diversity of our student base. By relocating ACS(P) to Tengah to serve a new neighbourhood as a co-ed school, the ACS family will serve more students’ educational and co-curricular needs. This achieves a more inclusive educational offering as one of Singapore’s mission schools,” Mr Seow added.

With this move, ACS(P) would also bring with it its Gifted Education Programme to Tengah.

While the relocated ACS(P) at Tengah will admit Primary One (P1) students from 2030 onwards with full P1 admission priority for siblings and alumni, with the assistance of MOE, the relocation will not affect any present ACS(P) students who are enrolled at the Barker Road site, as MOE will apply a “teach-out” model to allow existing students already enrolled in ACS(P) at the Barker Road site to remain until graduation in Primary Six.

ACS (Junior), currently operating at Winstedt Road, is slated to move to the Barker Road campus tentatively in 2039.

Bishop Dr Gordon Wong of The Methodist Church in Singapore supported the initiatives and said: “I am heartened to hear of the founding of the special education school. As children of God, it is our duty to shine our light before others, as per ACS’ mission, and I believe that the upcoming plans honour our dedication to doing more for the community with our resources as well as giving us the opportunity to plant a church in a new town.”

Reactions from alumni and public

The move to an up-and-coming heartland precinct and opening the school to girls was met with mixed reactions from the alumni. Some felt that it fulfilled the ACS mission, but wondered why the alumni was not consulted. Many were concerned that there would be a loss of identity and change in culture of their alma mater with its new location and turning co-ed.

The Straits Times education correspondent Sandra Davie called the move the “right” and “gutsy” thing to do by ACS and MOE, saying it allowed “less well-off” students to have “more education pathways”.1 Other media outlets reported the potential increase in property prices in Tengah New Town.2

1 Sandra Davie, The Straits Times, 13 February 2023, “ACS’ move to the heartland opens more pathways to less well-off pupils”.

2 Chew Hui Min, CNA, 9 February 2023, Prices of Tengah homes near ACS (Primary) could rise 10% to 15%: Property analysts, (accessed 9 Feburary 2023)

Lianne Ong is the editor of Methodist Message.