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SMS alerts for truancy?

By johnboy - 10 April 2007 25

The ABC reports that Andrew Barr is flinging $20 million on IT for schools.

Aside from bringing broadband to schools, and some video conferencing gear which might allow principals to spend some time actually in their schools rather than attending endless meetings about all the meetings they’re having, there’s an attention getter:

Education Minister Andrew Barr says the system which monitors student attendance will also be upgraded.

“A new initiative will also include the attendance monitoring project, which introduces electronic roll marking,” he said.

This is, it seems the dividend of slashing and burning the school system last year.

So it’s interesting to see that just a month ago the NT News reported on Palmerston High School axing their SMS truancy system because it was too hard to maintain. I shall quote at length from that article:

“The assessment found there had not been an overall improvement in attendance and it added to the workload of staff. There was a significant amount of additional work required in maintaining the mobile phone data and student data to ensure it could perform its job, like ringing the right phone numbers.

“It was also found in many instances staff needed to follow up on the SMS messages and this was, in effect, double handling. The efficiency of the system was affected by factors such as the high proportion of Defence Force families, who move at regular intervals, and the tendency for mobile phones to change ownership within families at short notice.

“Many parents also did not have mobile phones and this meant a back-up system for contacting parents was needed, imposing an additional workload on staff.

“It was too expensive to operate and maintain with running costs including upgrades, technical assistance and maintainence and call charges.”

What’s Your opinion?

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25 Responses to
SMS alerts for truancy?
kiwi61 1:02 pm 10 Apr 07

One good thing about Gold Creek High is that parents always receive a call to inform you that your child hasn’t turned up to school.
If you haven’t phoned the school in the morning to tell them of your childs absence, you will receive a call.

Absent Diane 12:05 pm 10 Apr 07

so the messages would be a step in a positive direction… almost like a receipt of your childs absence.

schmerica_ 11:40 am 10 Apr 07

Nope. At Stromlo High they send out a end of term peice of paper that shows how many absences your child has, when they were and why. Excursions are marked with an ‘E’ on the corresponding week and day ect.

Never known a school to ring up to confirm an absence – if a child is away, their away. I guess after a long series of absences they’d call.

Absent Diane 11:12 am 10 Apr 07

If there are several days off in succession or a pattern of absence then yes the school should ring up and discuss. If it is just a day off here and there then sms suffices. If there is additional information which the parent chooses disclose then they can ring the school.

Do schools ring for absences anyway?

VYBerlinaV8 now_with 11:10 am 10 Apr 07

If set up properly, automated SMS takes far less human time, and costs less than making phone calls. It requires some human smarts to make it work, but if done properly, in steady-state operation would be simple and effective.

johnboy 10:56 am 10 Apr 07

AD, you don’t think the school might have an interest in finding out if there is a reason the child is absent?

Assuming it’s the sort of school that even knows or cares who its students are.

Absent Diane 10:52 am 10 Apr 07

I think it is a fantastic idea.. it would be pretty cheap and simple to set up. Surely schools have admin people who already monitor this kind of thing… why not take it a step further. I have never seen an SMS alert system fall over either.

I don’t see how a phone call can acheive anything more other than pssing people off. A lot of people get a lot of phone calls during the day and receiving a phone call to tell you what you already know would certainly piss me off. Where as an SMS is simple, takes little time and can be deleted.

So long as people don’t fck with equipment videoconferencing is also a fantastic idea.

la mente torbida 10:47 am 10 Apr 07

Technology for technology’s sake for crying out loud. Let’s go the whole hog and implant GPS into the kids and let parents track them through google maps. Then again, maybe a bar code or serial number tatooed onto their forearms.

louise 10:39 am 10 Apr 07

Today’s CT had a story on the next step for electronic roll marking. The Brits have started gathering biometric data – including fingerprints – so they can track down early signs of criminality!

With a local education department for focused on gimmicks than on people – whatever happened to actually knowing the kids and talking to their families – this type of monitoring can’t be too far away.

johnboy 10:23 am 10 Apr 07

Several big “ifs” in there.

I’m all for shiny tech toys but this seems like a situation where a phone call can achieve far, far more.

VYBerlinaV8 now_with 10:18 am 10 Apr 07

If the system is implemented and maintained properly, it shouldn’t be very expensive, and would be fairly easy to maintain.

It’s a great idea and should be pursued. Besides, every new system has a few bugs – get them sorted and enjoy the functionality. Anything that pushes responsibility back to parents is a good thing.

johnboy 10:15 am 10 Apr 07

You’ll note that most of the gee whiz stories are set shortly after implementation when the kids are still finding the edges and the mobile phone database is up to date.

But time will tell.

Sammy 10:15 am 10 Apr 07

And more success stories. According to that article, when kids truant they become blurry, and hang out near trolleys.

Sammy 10:12 am 10 Apr 07

In the interests of editorial balance, here is a report of the system working.

James-T-Kirk 10:10 am 10 Apr 07

At Trinity in Wanniassa, the system has been working fine for about 12 months. Providing feedback to parents on absences is great!

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