According to Ofsted, schools can prevent truancy if a good monitoring system exists. But the problem is serious enough for the Department for Education and Employment to introduce a 'truancy buster' award of up to£10,000 for schools meeting truancy improvement targets.
Millfields primary community school in Hackney is the first school in the country to pilot a system aiming to raise levels of attendance by using the latest mobile phone technology.
The system simultaneously reduces costs and brings together parents, teachers and administrators onto a single and accessible information network.
It delivers a final report within minutes of roll call being completed, which can be e-mailed to the head teacher and the education department. If the system went national even the education minister could know the number of absent students by 10 am.
The system allows for group messaging to be sent to the parents of a particular class, for example, 3F's maths homework due in on Friday.
The scheme connects the school community by giving teachers a mobile phone with which to take a roll call. Parents of absent children automatically receive a text message or e-mail. MaviCom are testing the system with Hackney LBC and BT Cellnet.
The two main advantages are:
-It brings the school community together in an innovative way
-It delivers a final report on attendance figures within minutes of roll call being completed.
The new system keeps the parents informed and asks for a response if there is any ambiguity about the child's attendance.
At the moment there can be a delay of several days before parents are told. The school requires no new equipment other than the phones for the teachers and access to the web. The parents can be on any mobile telephone network, and all that is required is for their mobile phones to be text-enabled.
The system can also be expanded to become a centralised site dealing with all kinds of data for further statistical analysis.
-Martin Betsworth, IT co-ordinator, Hackney LBC.