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Monday, 4 June, 2001, 14:25 GMT 15:25 UK
Text messages in war against truancy
mobile phone
Parents will hear about absence immediately
Schools in London and Leicester are using mobile phone text messages to clamp on pupils who play truant.

Teachers will take the morning register on an internet phone, scrolling down a list of names on the screen.

If a pupil is absent, the teacher will press a key which triggers an automatic text message to his or her parents.

Of course, the scheme relies on parents owning a mobile phone of their own, but if the trials are successful, it could be launched nationally.

Instant information

The technology has been developed by a company called MaviCom with the support of BT wireless.
classroom
Morning roll call could change forever

It can also alert social services and send homework assignments and grades to pupils and parents.

Azhar Hussain, from MaviCom, said: "We're demonstrating that next generation technology can be transformational in the way we live our lives."

"The system will extend to other interested agencies such as child welfare or foster homes and eventually to even to the children," he added.

Trial scheme

Soar Valley College in Leicester is one of the schools being used to test the system.

Brian Glover, the college principal, said he was glad to be asked to take part in the trial.

man using mobile phone
Parents need their own mobile phone
"It's not just about truancy. The system will be used to improve communication with parents," he said.

"We will use it to remind parents about special meetings or homework deadlines. So far the parents of children here have been very supportive of the idea."

Mr Glover estimates at his school that 70% of parents already have one.

The school requires no new equipment other than the phones for the teachers and access to the web.

Wider use

The system can deliver a final report - within minutes of roll call being completed - to the head teacher and the local education authority.

If the system was used nationally even the education minister could have a tally of the number of absent students on the same day.

Mobile phone technology has already made its presence felt in schools across the country.

At a recent conference, head teachers heard that pupils were using their phones during lessons to complain about their teachers.

Delegates, at the National Association of Head Teachers Conference in Harrogate, were told that mobiles are still widely used despite the best efforts of some schools to ban the phones during the school day.

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See also:

31 May 01 | Education
Pupils use mobiles to tell on teacher
25 Apr 01 | Education
Text messaging soap to aid revision
16 Mar 01 | Scotland
Text message bullies action call
11 Feb 00 | Education
Pupils fined for ringing phones
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