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Wednesday, 10 April, 2002, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK
Text message war against truancy
mobile phone
Parents will get a text message if their child plays truant
A secondary school in north Wales is testing a system of using mobile phone text messages to clamp down on pupils who play truant.

For the next month the morning register at Friars School in Bangor will be scanned into a computer and an automatic personalised message sent out to the mobile phones of parents whose children are missing.

It's a very good idea - most people own a mobile phone by now.

Melfyn Ellis, parent
The scheme relies on parents owning a mobile phone, but if the trials are successful, it could be launched nationally.

The month long trial has been welcomed by the headmaster Martin Wise.

One parent Melfyn Ellis has also given the scheme the thumbs up:

"It's a very good idea - most people own a mobile phone by now.

"The parent gets the message that there is something wrong or that the child is absent"

The school has 1,200 pupils and an average daily attendance of 92%, but that still means that around a 100 children stay away - not all of them with a legitimate excuse.

Morning roll call could change forever

Soar Valley College in Leicester is one of the schools already testing the system.

College principal Brian Glover said he was glad to be asked to take part.

"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 70% of parents at his school already have a mobile phone.

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

mobile phone
Parents must have mobile phones

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 conference last year, 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.

BBC Wales's Sian Lloyd
"The tables are being turned on pupils who love using their mobile phones"
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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