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Thursday, 21 December, 2000, 17:25 GMT
Pupils paid to be polite
teenagers out of school BBC
By BBC News Online internet reporter Mark Ward

Well-behaved pupils in England will soon be regularly rewarded with loyalty points that can be spent in shops.

A scheme to monitor attendance is being extended to record and reward good behaviour. Pupils could be reward for politeness and punctuality with points stored on smartcards that may also hold personal information about the owner of the card.

Trials of the loyalty scheme are running in four regions, and early next year the government is expected to choose which one will be used for a national scheme.

Eventually, all 16-19 year olds are expected to be using the card-based system.

Card-carrying kids

In 1999, the UK Government started a scheme to tempt 16-19 year olds from poor backgrounds to stay on and continue their education. The educational maintenance allowance pays 40 per week to children in families where the household income is less than 13,000.

Since the initiative began, the government has been looking for a way to pass on the cash that minimises the risk that it will be misspent.

Many of the pupils that may qualify for the allowance have been taking part in pilot schemes that monitor their attendance using a "Learning Card" resembling a credit card.

Now, trials are under way to use the same card to carry the weekly allowance. Four projects - in Nottingham, Merseyside, Northumberland and Bracknell - have launched pilot schemes using a "Connexions" smartcard.

Regular rewards

The pilot schemes are using cards to monitor the attendance of every 16-19 year old in the schools taking part.

The biggest trial is taking place in Nottingham, involving 20 schools and further education colleges, and gives smartcards to nearly 16,000 16-19 year olds.

This scheme is giving loyalty points for good behaviour, which can be redeemed for discounts on travel, books and entrance fees to leisure centres.The project is being co-ordinated by Nottinghamshire's Guideline Career Services.

Richard Henderson at Bull, which is providing the technology behind the scheme, said points could be given for such things as good attendance and handing homework in on time.

Individual schools decide what they give points for, but Mr Henderson speculated that some schools may reward sporting performances with points or running and organising afterschool clubs. The exchange rate of points to discounts is set centrally.

The cards could also store personal information such as a CV.

Pupils swipe the cards every time they go to a lesson, and teachers may be able to hand out points on the spot using portable card reading devices.

Smart students

The cards are tamper-proof so pupils cannot change the data stored on them and generate points for themselves.

"Pupils won't be able to swap points between themselves," said Mr Henderson.

The fact that the card has points that can be spent like cash should encourage attendance, said Mr Henderson.

In Nottingham, the Connexions card pilot has been linked with a larger scheme that lets residents use smart cards on public transport and get discounts in 200 shops.

The Nottingham scheme has been running for only a couple of weeks and Mr Henderson said the scheme had been well received, but it was too early to say whether it was encouraging kids to stay on at school.

The government is currently assessing the success of the trials with a view to choosing one for a national scheme. A decision on which scheme wins will be made in February and by the end of 2001 all 16-19 year olds could be using the cards.

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See also:

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21 Sep 00 | Scotland
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