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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 December, 2003, 17:41 GMT
Technology tackles truancy rates
Actors playing truant and parent
Truancy Call can alert parents by text message
Truancy levels at one London school have improved after it introduced the latest communications technology.

Truancy Call is a system that automatically alerts parents by phone, email or text, if their children are not in school.

Pimlico School in south-west London installed the technology, which keeps contacting parents until a response is received and records replies so the school can take action in case of truancy.

Education Minister Ivan Lewis visited the school on Tuesday and said truancy at London secondary schools was falling 20 times faster than the national average.

The school is one of 250 across the UK using Truancy Call.

I'm not convinced (hi-tech solutions) are really going to deal with root causes
Gwen Evans, Association of Teachers and Lecturers
Phillip Barnard, head teacher at Pimlico School, said: "Truancy Call has saved us vast amounts of time contacting the parents of absent children, at a time when there is mounting pressure to ease the workload on teachers.

"Since installing the Truancy Call system at Pimlico School we have seen a marked 2% improvement in unauthorised absence levels - an incredible statistic when this is compared to the national average of 0.01%."

Mr Lewis said London secondary schools were "leading the way in tackling truancy, improving their attendance levels at 20 times the national average".

But Gwen Evans, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said hi-tech solutions were limited.

She told BBC London: "I'm not convinced they are really going to deal with root causes.

"They do have a good function in the sense they are telling everyone that school attendance, day in day out, is important.

"But they will not solve that hard core of 4,000 to 5,000 missing every day in London."

BBC London's David Bromfield
"The introduction of new technology has helped improve attendance by 2%"

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