Opposite of Margaret Drive, at the junction of Queensway and Commonwealth Avenue (previously was a roundabout called Queen’s Circus), lies the former campus of New Town Secondary School.
Established in 1965, the same year as Singapore’s independence, the school was initially made up of only a multi-purpose hall building, a four-storey block of classrooms and open-air basketball courts. At the start, it was known as Queensway’s Third Secondary School (the other two being Queensway and Queenstown Secondary Schools), aimed in providing english-medium education to the children of the Queenstown’s residents.
The school was officially named New Town Secondary School in mid-1965, referencing to the relatively new satellite housing estate of Queenstown. The school’s motto was “to forge a better life”, reflecting the goals and objectives of a new state emerged during late fifties and early sixties, hoping that the school and education could forge a better future for its students and, in turn, they could contribute to the nation’s progress and development.
The first year of New Town Secondary School had 45 classes, made up of 73 teachers and 1,819 students. It was one of the first schools in Singapore to provide bilingual education to the students. Many of its upper secondary classes had students from Hua Yi Secondary School, Queensway Secondary School and Tanglin Integrated Secondary School (renamed Tanglin Technical Secondary School in 1969 and Tanglin Secondary School in 1993).
After well-established for almost 20 months, New Town Secondary School was officially opened on 17 September 1966 by Jek Yeun Thong, Minister for Labour and Member of Parliament (MP) for Queenstown.
The importance of Singapore’s secondary education after independence was demonstrated by the school’s distinguished guests of honour. Former Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew and former Singapore President Benjamin Sheares had visited the school in 1967 and 1971 respectively.
In 1969, New Town Secondary School merged with the neigbouring Baharuddin Vocational School, doubling the size of its school compound and increasing its students intake to more than 3,000. By the mid-seventies, New Town Secondary School was the largest secondary school in Singapore.
To accommodate the increased number of students, many of the school amenities were upgraded or expanded. In the seventies and eighties, a running track, grandstand, fitness corner and tennis courts were constructed. Also, long benches and tables were added around the school compound for the students to study and rest. An overhead projector was installed in each classroom. In 1988, New Town Secondary School set up its first computer laboratory.
New Town Secondary School in the seventies was a keen participant in many national campaigns such as “Better Food for Better Health” and “Use Your Hands”, where many of its students competed in inter-school cookery contests, while the rest were involved in the spring cleaning and repair works of their classrooms.
New Town Secondary School achieved a major milestone in the nineties, when it decided to be relocated to a newer and larger premises at Dover Road. The construction of the new campus kicked off in 1996. Two years later, in November 1998, the staff and students of New Town Secondary School gathered one last time at the old campus to bid farewell to their beloved and familiar school. A tree was removed and shifted to the new Dover Road campus as part of the symbolic move.
Since then, for more than two decades, the old premises of New Town Secondary School had been left vacant or leased as temporary campuses to other educational institutes, such as Clementi Town Secondary School, Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (CHIJ) Saint Theresa’s Convent School and Assumption English School.
There are no concrete plans for its redevelopment yet, but the piece of land that the old premises of New Town Secondary School is sitting on will likely not be left vacant for too long.
Published: 23 December 2019
Interestingly enough, a quick search on land use plans and URA master plan indicate subject to detailed planning for the New Town secondary school plot. One would think such prime location (Queenstown/Commonwealth district and beside an mrt station) would definitely mean the demolition of the building and development into a private estate like it’s neighbour a station further down.