Page last updated at 12:41 GMT, Thursday, 2 April 2009 13:41 UK

Rewards boost school attendances

By Nick Parry
BBC News website

Bishop Gore school pupils
The youngsters were presented with their awards at a school asembly

Pupils at Bishop Gore Comprehensive have become used to their parents or guardians receiving an automated phone call if they fail to register each day.

Within minutes of the morning bell messages are left every hour until an adult replies to explain their absence.

Like other schools in Swansea and across the UK Bishop Gore is using technology to improve attendance rates.

Head teacher Ryan Davies said it had significantly reduced absences and some pupils have also warmed to the idea.

Those who had not missed a single day so far since September were being rewarded this week for their attendance records.

The company that supplied the system - Truancy Call - provided music vouchers while the school presented each youngster with an Easter egg.

Some pupils said the promise of rewards had driven them on to maintain their 100% records.

Liam, aged 12, said: "When you wake up in the morning and feel like you don't want to go to school, you push yourself if you know you want to get a 100% attendance if know you are going to get awarded for it.

Liam and Emily
Liam and Emily were two of the pupils with perfect attendance rates

"You just make the effort to come into school."

For others the reward system was less important.

Isabelle, 13, said: "I like coming to school - seeing my friends and learning new things."

Emily, 14, said: "It's not that hard. It's really my mum who gets to me school all the time."

Mr Davies said since the system was installed three years ago attendance records had improved by 2%.

"When you look at two percentage points over three years you are talking about hundreds of pupils attending more regularly and more frequently. It's quite significant."

He said rewarding pupils at school assemblies for their attendance was important.

"We are often talking about far more complicated things these days in school, but we must not forget the building blocks and the essentials of getting pupils into school on time and regularly. Without that we can't do anything.

"Events like this puts the focus back on the basics."

The system, which also allows the school to sent emails and texts to parents and guardians, had other benefits, added Mr Davies.

"It has opened up another channel of communication for us.

"Parents and carers have got busy lives and contacting them about anything - school events or whatever - is notoriously difficult.

"This is so accurate and quick we are using it not just for truancy but to send out messages about events such as parents evenings."

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