RGS wants to get to know Braddell

It is moving to new campus on Oct 21, and aims to reach out to community, schools in area

Amelia Teng
Education Correspondent


Raffles Girls' School (RGS) is moving into the heartland on Oct 21 and it wants to be a good neighbour.

All 1,600 students and 180 staff will start school at its new Braddell campus, which has been seven years in the making.

But it will not just be a physical move from Anderson Road to Braddell, where it will be near brother school Raffles Institution (RI), said RGS principal Poh Mun See.

The school, which celebrates its 140th anniversary this year, wants to reach out to its new community and be a part of it.

It is starting with seven Housing Board blocks in Braddell and Toa Payoh. As a goodwill gesture, 70 of its Secondary 1 girls and nine staff will be giving out fans to residents today. Mrs Poh told The Sunday Times that these blocks were seen as having been most affected by the construction work over the past two years.

It cost $90 million to build the new campus, which sits on the site of the former Braddell-Westlake Secondary School that closed in 2005. To date, RGS has raised $8 million for the new campus, which is co-funded by the school and the Education Ministry.

Its plans to plug itself into the area include starting a mentoring programme that matches 30 Secondary 2 students with Primary 4 girls from three schools in the area - Marymount Convent, First Toa Payoh Primary and Kheng Cheng.

It hopes to expand the initiative to more schools and inspire girls from less privileged families to join RGS, said Mrs Poh.

"The Braddell-Toa Payoh community is a lot more in the heartland than here (in Anderson Road), where there are a lot of expatriates. So we see a lot of opportunities for our girls to engage with the local community," she added.

The school also went to some lengths to ensure it did not "bulldoze" its way through the 7ha site, which had been vacant for more than 10 years before it took over.

Ms Goh Lee Kian, RGS' director of planning and infrastructure, said it kept 91 trees of different sizes and types, such as a cannonball tree, rain trees, sakura trees, sea apple trees and jambolan trees.

Wood from the trees it had to fell was treated and reused. Secondary 4 girls made a planter box in March using the treated wood, and they will present it to the school as a farewell gift when they graduate.

The school also retained a 1979 glass mosaic mural found at the former school site that depicts about 15 landmarks of Singapore, including the National Theatre, which was torn down in 1986.

The mural is now up along the campus boundary fence in Braddell Road so the public can view it.

It has also moved its own iconic pieces from Anderson Road, including a sculpture called Raffles Tree by Brother Joseph McNally, three pieces of stained glass artwork and its old gate from Queen Street.

Being opposite RI is also a sort of reunion as RGS started as a one-room department at RI in Bras Basah Road. The schools are now connected via an overhead pedestrian bridge, dubbed by some as the "love bridge", similar to the one that links Hwa Chong Institution and Nanyang Girls' High School in Bukit Timah.

The bridge links bus stops on both sides of Braddell Road.

Asked about this, Mrs Poh said with a laugh: "It's a public bridge, but it does link RGS to RI... It's an object of interest for many parties."

Some parents are quite excited, she said, while a few have asked if being near the RI boys would pose a distraction.

Security measures will be in place and the schools' side gates will require card access, she said.

There will be more opportunities to share facilities and student programmes between RI and RGS, said Mrs Poh, adding that RGS is looking at an optional boarding programme for its girls at RI's hostels, which will be gender-segregated.

There may also be teacher exchanges across both schools, she said. "Before 2012, the board was presented with different options, different locations for our new campus. This was chosen in the end also partly because it would bring us closer to RI."

New facilities at the school

• An innovation hub, which will have facilities like a sandbox, and science and research labs.

•Students will learn computing and technological skills, and can take up optional enrichment modules in topics such as coding, drones, app or Web development, and artificial intelligence.

• Filiae Centre, modelled after student affairs offices at universities. The centre will offer life coaching, art therapy, life-skills workshops and avenues for student expression through art, as well as existing provisions such as counselling, leadership development and student administrative services, including university and scholarship applications.

• An open-air 2,000-seat amphitheatre for school events.

• A four-storey performing arts centre, with an 860-seat auditorium and a 208-seat black-box theatre, along with four music rooms, 10 music practice rooms and a dance studio.

• A three-storey library.

• An indoor sports hall.

• Energy-efficient air-conditioning and lights, as well as larger fans throughout the campus to generate better air flow. Classrooms will be naturally ventilated with fans and monsoon windows, which allow air flow but can block out the rain.

Amelia Teng