SSP Review Executive Summary
At the 10th anniversary celebrations of the Singapore Sports School (Sports School) on 22 January 2014, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong challenged the Sports School to “become a national sports academy of excellence 10 years from now”.
The Singapore Sports School Review Committee
The Singapore Sports School Review Committee was then formed to review the role, positioning and integration of the Sports School within Singapore’s sports excellence ecosystem. This was to ensure that the Sports School would evolve in tandem with the international sporting landscape, and the aspirations of student-athletes who can win glory for Singapore.
Co-chaired by Ms Yeoh Chee Yan (Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and Chairman of the Singapore Sports School Board) and Mr Richard Seow (Chairman of Sport Singapore), the Committee also comprised representatives from the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC), the National Sports Associations (NSAs), Ministry of Education (MOE), and Institutes of Higher Learning (IHL). Two parents and a Sports School alumna were also part of the Committee.
The Committee examined ways to improve the current academic and sports training programmes at the Sports School to better support student-athletes. It also explored how the Sports School can benefit and support student-athletes outside of it, and be better integrated with other elements of the youth sports excellence ecosystem so as to more effectively contribute to its development.
The Committee consulted about 200 parents, students, and sports administrators to hear what they had to say about the role of a national sports academy of excellence and how the Sports School can contribute to such a role.
In addition, several focus group discussions were also organised with athletes past and present (including athletes who did not study in the Sports School) to understand the challenges they face and their developmental needs as youth athletes. The Committee also sat down with representatives from the NSAs to hear their views on the proposed recommendations from this review.
Key Challenges and Opportunities
The international sporting landscape has become more competitive over the past 10 years, and the pursuit of sporting excellence more demanding. This has made the challenge of balancing sporting pursuits and academic development more pronounced.
Given the small population and limited sports talent pool in Singapore, this has also highlighted the importance of early talent identification and selection, and making sure that we improve the development of youth sports talent who have the potential to represent Singapore, including those who study in mainstream schools, so that they can achieve the best results with our investment in high performance sports.
The Sports School will need to work closely with its partners to more effectively identify, develop and retain sports talent to build up a pipeline of elite athletes for Singapore. The Sports School will have to provide a more flexible academic environment for student-athletes, while continuing to place priority on providing its student-athletes with top-notch coaching and athlete life services.
There is scope for the Sports School to play a greater role in the development of youth athletes who have the potential to represent Singapore, even if they are not enrolled in it. For this to happen, there needs to be a paradigm shift to recognise the Sports School as a national institution and an integral part of the youth sports excellence ecosystem.
We should also improve the youth sports excellence ecosystem, so that there is better management of youth athletes for Team Singapore. This includes forging closer collaboration between the Sports School and key stakeholders, including the Singapore Sports Institute (SSI), MOE, NSAs, MINDEF/SAF, and MHA/Home Team. Together with these partners, the Sports School will drive and create an integrated youth sports excellence ecosystem to improve the outcomes of long-term elite athlete development.
The Committee has completed its review and developed 9 recommendations in 3 broad areas:
A) Enhancing the Sports School’s value proposition
The Committee recommends enhancing the Sports School’s value proposition as a school that provides a quality education combined with an excellent sports programme to develop student-athletes with the potential to represent Singapore.
- The Sports School should continue to prioritise the provision of top-notch coaching and athlete life services for its student-athletes. This will ensure that they have a long-term development plan that meets their sports and academic needs.
- The Sports School should deliver a distinctive sports-focused education so that student-athletes can balance the demands of competitive sport and a sound academic education. This will create an environment for sport excellence that will be conducive for nurturing the mind-set, habits and life-skills of a sport champion.
- The Sports School should offer additional extended 6+ year academic programmes, over the current 4-year secondary programme. This will provide the student-athlete a longer period of academic and sports support in the Sports School environment. The Sports School should work with academic partners to provide greater curricular flexibility and academic options, specifically working with the International Baccalaureate Organisation, Polytechnics, and Institutes of Technical Education to develop additional post-secondary academic pathways for student-athletes to choose from.
- The Sports School should establish linkages with Singapore and overseas universities to support its student-athletes with high sporting potential.
B) New National Youth Sports Institute To Support High-Performing Youth Athletes Outside Sports School and Improve the Youth Sports Excellence Ecosystem
The Committee recommends that the Sports School develop the capabilities to support high-performing student-athletes in mainstream schools and contribute to improving the youth sports excellence ecosystem.
- A new National Youth Sports Institute (NYSI) will be established as a resource centre for high performing youth-athletes both within and outside the Sports School. It will provide services such as sports science, sports medicine, and athlete life management services, as well as centralised sports training (for student-athletes outside the Sports School). NYSI, in collaboration with SSI and the NSAs, will oversee the development of all elite youth athletes as they progress from youth to adulthood.
- NYSI should drive talent identification and selection programmes, in partnership with MOE and the NSAs. This should be complemented by the refinement of the carding system to include high-performing youth athletes, as well as the setting up of a shared Athlete Management System to monitor, track and support athletes along the entire athlete development pathway.
- NYSI should be a centre of excellence that raises the standards of the youth sports excellence ecosystem. It should do so in close collaboration with key partners and stakeholders (including SSI and the NSAs, IHLs, and parents of student-athletes). It should also set up the Youth Coaching Division under the National Coaching Academy to develop world-class coaches for Singapore’s young athletes.
C) Focusing Resources for Better Outcomes
The Committee recommends that the Sports School and NYSI provide customised and tiered levels of support to provide the most value-add to the development of studentathletes who can go on to represent Singapore.
- The Sports School should sharpen its focus on developing student-athletes with the potential to go on to represent Singapore in the targeted sports. While all Sports School student-athletes should enjoy a baseline level of athlete services, those who achieve higher levels of carding should qualify for more specialised support. This also means strengthening its selection criteria for admission into the Sports School, while working with MOE to administer flexibility for student-athletes who wish to join the Sports School mid-stream after Secondary 1.
- The Sports School and NYSI should customise the support provided to suit the needs of different sports and athletes through the three main programmes: Academy Programme, Individual Programme, and the National Age-Groups Programme.
The recommendations aim to build on the Sports School’s success over the last 10 years and transform it into a national youth sports academy of excellence. These recommendations will enable the Sports School to champion continuous improvement in the youth sports ecosystem and nurture champions for Singapore.