Covid-19: What S'pore's schools looked like on the first day back post-Circuit Breaker, Phase 1

Portrait Mode: We take a look inside Xingnan Primary School and Yio Chu Kang Secondary School as they received about half their cohorts on the first day of Term 3.

Angela Lim| Andrew Koay| Jane Stephanie| June 03, 2020, 11:48 AM

On the morning of Jun. 2, 2020, a portion of Singapore's schoolgoing students entered Phase One of the country's reopening by returning to schools.

At Xingnan Primary School in Jurong West, teachers welcomed students back by waiting at the entrance of the compound.

Students arriving at Xingnan Primary School. Image by Mothership

Image by Mothership

Students at Xingnan Primary School taking the national pledge. Image by Mothership

While the students went through familiar school ceremonies like saying the national pledge and the raising of the national flag, it was impossible to ignore that it wasn't businesses as usual in the school; only half of the students were present.

This is part of the Ministry of Education's plans for a progressive restart. The first few weeks of the new term will see cohorts' physical attendance at school staggered, with priority given to students from the graduating cohort.

On Tuesday and the rest of the week, Xingnan will see students from the Primary 4, 5, and 6 cohorts in school.

Next week, the Primary 4 and 5 cohorts will go back to Home-Based Learning and the Primary 1, 2, and 3 cohorts will physically attend school; the cycle will repeat thereafter.

Students at Yio Chu Kang Secondary School. Image by MOE

Temperature taking exercise for students at Yio Chu Kang Secondary School. Image by MOE

Yio Chu Kang Secondary School welcomed back Secondary One, Two, Four, and Five students. Image by MOE

Secondary schools will experience a similar rotation with Sec 4 and 5 cohorts attending school every week and the Sec 3 cohorts taking in turns with Sec 1 and 2.

Junior Colleges and Millennia Institute will see only 50 per cent of students back in school at any one time.

This arrangement helps to reduce the number of students in schools at any one time for better physical distancing.

Students at Xingnan shared what they learnt during the CB period. Image by Mothership

Students at Xingnan shared what they learnt during the CB period. Image by Mothership

Physical education class at Xingnan. Image by Mothership

Physical education class at Xingnan. Image by Mothership

Physical education class at Xingnan. Image by Mothership

Physical education class at Xingnan. Image by Mothership

Physical education class at Xingnan. Image by Mothership

Observing the reopening of Xingnan was Minister of Education Ong Ye Kung.

"You can see a palpable sense of enthusiasm amongst the teachers and students, that they are coming back to school," he said to reporters.

"When I’m around, they are more quiet. But once I leave, they are actually very excited."

However, one group of people who may not share in the excitement are parents worried for the safety of their children.

Acknowledging their concerns, Ong said: "It's very understandable."

Students at Xingnan hung their masks and sanitisers in labelled ziploc bags. Image by Mothership

Image by Mothership

The minister touched on some of the health precautions schools are taking to ensure that Covid-19 does not spread among students:

  • Stricter health screening at entrances
  • Stringent sanitising such as increased washing of hands and wiping down, and
  • Safe distancing within schools including the wearing of masks and shields.

"In the end, we need to reopen school, let children come back and (parents) can observe that schools are safe," said Ong.

"School is a good place for students to grow up and it’s part and parcel of growing up. Hopefully over time, (concerned parents) will change their mind. I really hope so."

For Ong there was more at stake than just "taking exams and getting good grades".

"(Education is) about their whole character and socio-emotional development – and we cannot deprive a whole generation of that experience."

A student at Yio Chu Kang Secondary wipes a table down. Image courtesy of MOE

A cleaner at Yio Chu Kang Secondary wipes down a student's desk. Image courtesy of MOE

Students in schools will have to follow safe distancing during recess. Image by Mothership

Image by Mothership

Additional reporting by Jane Stephanie


Portrait Mode is a photo essay series documenting the lives and experiences of people and things in Singapore, seen through the lenses of our young photographers at Mothership.


Top images by Angela Lim and Jane Stephanie