Technology to tackle truants

PARENTS of pupils at a Felixstowe school are receiving an immediate phone call or text message if their child is playing truant.Staff at Orwell High say the new automatic computer system is already having an impact on the numbers of youngsters skipping school with students knowing parents will be made aware straight away if their child is missing.

PARENTS of pupils at a Felixstowe school are receiving an immediate phone call or text message if their child is playing truant.

Staff at Orwell High say the new automatic computer system is already having an impact on the numbers of youngsters skipping school with students knowing parents will be made aware straight away if their child is missing.

Headteacher Peter Tomkins said the specialist technology school in Maidstone Road had installed the automatic parent notification system Truancy Call.

Details of all 850 students and their parent contact numbers are held on a secure computer system which is linked to the daily registers.

Once registration is called, the system checks its records for whether a child is off sick or has any other authorised absence, and then phones, sends a text message or emails parents to tell them their child is not in school but should be.

Once the system makes contact - it keeps trying until late evening - it asks the parent or guardian to confirm the call is for them and then asks if they are aware their child is absent from school and requests a reason for the absence.

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Mr Tomkins said the system was also helping to safeguard pupil welfare in the area as both parents and the school are aware as soon as a child is missing.

"Installing Truancy Call has made a real difference to our unauthorised absence levels," he said.

"We have had a very pleasing reaction from the parents as the system reminds them that they must inform the school straight away if their child is absent."

The school has not had to invest in new telephone systems, additional phone lines or a new computer, as Truancy Call handles the process remotely.

Stephen Clarke, director of Truancy Call, said: "Orwell High appreciates the necessity of contacting parents on the first day of their child's absence.

"It is important the school knows at all times where pupils are for their own safety and, should the child be missing, all parties can take immediate action."

More than one million children are absent from school every year. On a typical school day there are 50,000 children not in school and with over eight million school days lost across the UK each year.

The government has set a target to reduce unauthorised absence by 10 per cent from the 2002 figures.

WEBLINK: www.truancycall.com

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