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Sunday, 25 June, 2000, 00:19 GMT 01:19 UK
Net access to pupils' records
parent using mychildatschool.com
Using the net to "empower" parents
Parents are starting to get teachers' information on their children's attendance and performance at school through a website.



One of the positive ways of using the internet

Keith Norman, Shoeburyness High

A firm which already provides paperless collection of registration and other student data for more than 500 schools around the UK has come up with a secure way of letting parents see the information.

It means they can find out at any time not only whether their son or daughter is at school but even which classes they have attended - and details such as whether they forgot to take their PE kit.

Schools say it will help them work more closely with parents - to combat truancy, but also to let them know instantly when pupils have done particularly well in a lesson.

Aspects of the data can also be made available to others, such as local authority education welfare officers.

Password protection levels

The Bromcom Computers e-School product, introduced in 1993, uses short-range radio within schools to put information from teachers into the school's administration computer.

It has now launched a website - mychildatschool.com - which picks up the information provided by e-School or any other similar system, and presents it to parents.

The website has password-protected logins which can be set at different levels of confidentiality.


screengrab
Access is PIN-controlled for different users
The site has been piloted at Holloway School, a comprehensive in north London for boys aged 11-16.

One of the parents, Alan McVeigh, said: "I am able to log onto the system in the evenings, check my son's grades and e-mail his teachers with any questions I have about his schoolwork."

He now feels better able to talk to his son Leigh, 13, about his schoolwork because he knows precisely how he is doing.

Targeting potential truants

Other schools are now keen to follow suit.

St Peter's, an 11-18 comprehensive in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, has used e-School for four years for all its registration and a lot of monitoring of students' progress.

The deputy head, Eddie Howlett, said: "It does allow us to keep a close eye, especially on targeted children who are at risk of playing truant.

"The vast majority of our staff now feel they can put information into the central store and get information back out and report to parents much more efficiently than they used to be able to.

"The website is the next development of that."

Technology in action

For the past few years Shoeburyness High in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, has been trying to improve its pupils' attendance.

It has just become a technology specialist school and the deputy head, Keith Norman, said there was a mood to "put our actions where our words are" by using technology to improve communication with parents.


screen grab
Where was your daughter today?
"We rely heavily on working as partners with parents and I see this as being an extension of that," he said.

It ties in with a local education authority initiative to provide schools and libraries with wireless internet access.

On Thursday the school had a parents' evening - the traditional way of communicating.

"They tend to happen but once a year ... but this gives a regular contact and even if it encourages one parent to be a little more diligent about their youngster's schooling then I think that's worthwhile.

"It's quite exciting really - one of the positive ways of using the internet when there are some that are less constructive."

Good news flow

Holloway has the only direct experience and already sees benefits from mychildatschool.com.



There is huge potential, particularly with kids that are on the knife edge

Dave Dennis, Holloway School
Its associate head teacher, Dave Dennis, says it can pass on good news as well as bad.

"If someone's son went to Holloway School and he was late or didn't bring his PE kit or was poorly behaved in class you would probably hear about it in a letter the same day.

"If he was well-behaved the whole week and did everything right, you probably wouldn't - you might hear something about it at the end of term but not instantly."

Automated data collection allows a teacher to put a "P" against a pupil's name for good performance, which is fed into a termly awards system - and can now be shown to parents on the same day.

"There is huge potential, particularly with kids that are on the knife edge," Mr Dennis said.

"It gives a chance to parents to talk about all the good things they are doing - reinforce the good, and at the same time have the dialogue about what's not so good and what we should change.

"By having the constant news there we are encouraging, empowering them to have a dialogue on an ongoing basis."

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