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Monday, 26 March, 2001, 15:13 GMT 16:13 UK
E-registering drive to beat truancy
pupils leaving
If they are not in school they are not learning
Hundreds more secondary schools in England are to be given money next year to introduce electronic pupil registration systems.

The Schools Minister, Jacqui Smith, said independent reports had shown that electronic registration could cut truancy by 10% within two years.

school secretary checking register
A central system can trigger alerts to school staff
The intention is that at least 500 secondary schools will share 11.25m from the government's capital modernisation fund from 2002.

The advantage of electronic registration is that, depending on the system chosen, it can be almost instant so a school can quickly contact pupils' homes to find out where they are.

The old-fashioned system, with the teachers ticking off paper registers which then have to be taken to the school office and checked by someone, can take hours.

Used by a fifth of schools

With e-registration some schools even check on pupil attendance at every lesson - information which can even be put on a secure website so parents can see where their children are.

Details of how schools can apply for the funding will be issued by the Department for Education later.

It is estimated that about a fifth of England's schools already use electronic systems to record pupil attendance.

The main types are:

  • hand-held - used in class by teachers to record attendance, which is relayed to a central computer
  • manual - recorded by teacher then scanned centrally
  • swipe cards - used by pupils as they enter school or classrooms, with the information available centrally.
"Too many children are missing school without good reason," Jacqui Smith said.

Some 50,000 played truant every day.

'It works'

Schools need to make it absolutely clear that pupils that should be in class. The best way to do so is to contact parents as soon as a child is missing.

"A number of schools have already introduced electronic registration and have proved that it is a successful and significant tool in tackling truancy. But I want more schools to benefit from this new technology."

The move was applauded by the general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, John Dunford.

"This is a very effective way of reducing truancy and is also used to monitor pupil attendance through the day, thus reducing the number of lessons missed by pupils who may be elsewhere on the school premises.

"As head teacher of Durham Johnston Comprehensive School I introduced electronic registration in 1997 at a cost of 40,000. It was money well spent."

Acland Burghley Secondary School in north London has an e-registration system which has helped it to cut truancy by just under a half from an average of nearly five days per pupil per year to just under three.

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See also:

25 Jun 00 | Education
Net access to pupils' records
11 Oct 99 | Education
'Swipecard' to cut truancy
03 Jan 01 | Education
Truancy sweeps cut city's crime
13 Mar 00 | Education
More pupils paid to attend school
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