Dismissed teacher from Woodlands pre-school is S'porean, got good reviews from parents: Kinderland

What do the rumours say?

The Kinderland teacher dismissed from the Woodlands Mart pre-school and subsequently arrested by police for the ill-treatment of a child is a Singaporean and received good testimonials from parents, said Kinderland in a statement sent to Stomp late Tuesday night (Aug 29).

The pre-school education provider was addressing "rumours circulating on the nationality and particulars of the teachers in question" after videos of their alleged abuse of pre-schoolers went viral in recent days.

The former Kinderland teacher and a suspended Kinderland teacher were arrested on Monday and Tuesday respectively. The second, who was from the Choa Chu Kang pre-school, was arrested for voluntarily causing hurt, read with enhanced penalties for offences against person below 14 years of age.

In its statement, Kinderland referred to the Woodlands Mart pre-school teacher as Teacher A.

"Teacher A, a Singaporean, 33, is an experienced and certified childcare teacher. She joined Kinderland in March 2020. Prior to joining Kinderland she had worked in another pre-school centre," said Kinderland, adding that she "consistently received good testimonials from parents".

"Teacher A also got along well with the other teachers in the centre and was always helpful."

Regarding the viral videos, which started circulating on Monday morning, Kinderland said: "In one, she is seen smacking a boy on his bottom with a book a few times; in another, she is shown pushing a boy’s head back to drink water; and in the third video, she is seen using her thumb and index finger to hold the face of a girl to have her continue to drink water.

"Kinderland was made aware of the videos when the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) contacted Kinderland on Aug 17 for an investigation.

"Three staff members of Kinderland Woodlands Mart met ECDA on Aug 17 and one on Aug 18. The staff were shown the videos and advised to review Teacher A’s behaviour.

"ECDA also imparted to the staff some guidelines on dealing with this incident: reaching out to the parents of the affected children, reporting the investigation to the Kinderland HQ and a proposed action plan to deal with the matter at hand.

"Based on the timestamp on the videos, the videos were recorded between June 27 and 30. At the point of recording, there were only two teachers in the classroom, Teacher A and a newer teacher still under probation (Teacher B).

"Kinderland HQ then started a Disciplinary Inquiry (DI). The DI addressed the issues with Teacher A and counselled her. Teacher A was remorseful and apologised for her behaviour for those few times.

"Concurrently, the principal of Woodlands Mart and Teacher A reached out to the parents of the affected children, to inform them and apologise for the rough handling of their children.

"The principal also asked after the well-being of their children and their feelings towards school. All three parents said that they did not notice anything amiss, nor any physical injuries and that their children were behaving normally.

"Upon completing the DI, Kinderland HQ requested for Teacher A to be dismissed on Aug 28.

"When the DI committee reached out to Teacher B, Teacher B did not admit to taking the videos of the incidents, nor posting them. She instead said that she had seen the videos from her friends.

"ECDA and the police are investigating this matter."

Kinderland said that Teacher B resigned and left Kinderland on July 29 to look after her ailing mother.

Regarding the affected children in the videos, they were all below the age of three at the time of the incidents, said Kinderland.

"Currently, two of the affected children are doing well. The mother of the third child has posted on social media that her daughter woke up screaming last night, which she attributes to the incident."

Regarding the second teacher arrested, Kinderland said: "Another video surfaced on Aug 29 on social media showing a teacher hitting a boy on his head at the Choa Chu Kang centre.

"The principal of the centre has likewise reached out to the parents of the boy and offered our apologies. She has also filed a report to ECDA and the teacher has been suspended."

It is unclear whether Kinderland was aware of the arrests when the statement was written.

The company said: "While isolated and rare incidents do happen, Kinderland has taken, and will continue to take, a proactive stance in addressing issues that arise and will continue to uphold a zero-tolerance policy of no abuse to anyone, child or adult.

"At this point, we have received six requests for withdrawals of children from the two centres. Kinderland will do our utmost to ensure the children are well placed and taken care of during the transition period. Two hundred children are currently enrolled at the two centres.

"We would also like to remind the public that the actions of one teacher do not reflect the attitudes or actions of the other hundreds of teachers in Kinderland. Our teachers deserve the respect and appreciation for the good work they do every day for our children, and it would be appreciated that they do not become targets for slurs or negative comments.

"We would also like to thank the parents and public who have written in to us personally, as a show of their support during this challenging time for our staff and teachers."

Turning to the future, Kinderland said: "Going forward, Kinderland will put in place new measures that will better address the welfare of both children and teachers in both centres.

"Kinderland will also be enhancing our current policy to manage the mental health of new and current teachers with weekly and monthly meet-up sessions with the principal to have a better feel of issues on the ground.

"At present, Kinderland has a Pre-school Management App where photos and videos of our children are posted regularly by teachers to update parents on their child’s progress. We will be reinforcing the continued use of this app among teachers.

"Presently, Kinderland has CCTVs cameras installed along the common corridors, entrance and exits of the centre. CCTV cameras in classrooms had always been a matter of concern in protecting the privacy of the children. Following these incidents, we will be expanding the installation of CCTVs in all classrooms and children activity areas at these two centres.

"At the same time, Kinderland HQ has provided an additional point of contact for parents to directly contact the centres and Kinderland HQ in case of any matters.

"As part of new teacher orientation, Kinderland will also be fine-tuning our “feedback and comments” procedures for staff and teachers to highlight matters of concern, or issues that will help us better our service, with a direct line to Kinderland HQ on a non-prejudice basis, should they need to bring up any matters that they do not feel comfortable bringing up within the centres.

"We hope that this will give our teachers added confidence that Kinderland strives hard to ensure that the welfare of all staff, teachers and children is always a priority."