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School trials electronic absence monitoring 30 November 2006

CASTLE Rushen High School is helping to safeguard pupils’ welfare and combat absenteeism by introducing an automatic parent notification system to support Electronic First Day Absence Monitoring.

The system enables school staff to establish first-day contact with parents of absentees via text messages, automated phone calls or emails until a response is received.

On average across the Island, one in 200 children is absent from school without authorisation each day.

Once electronic registration has been completed at Castle Rushen, the system automatically contacts the parents of absentees and, once a response is received, further calls that day are stopped.

In two weeks of trialling the software, the school has identified a 50 per cent decline in unauthorised absences. Improvements in pupil attendance, communications with parents and a reduction in the administrative burdens have also been noted.

John Binns, Deputy Head Teacher at Castle Rushen, commented:

‘In September 2005, the school began using an automatic registration system, removing the 50 paper registers previously used, with all pupil data now available electronically.

‘Using Electronic First Day Absence Monitoring was a natural progression from implementing an electronic registration system. We can now monitor and regularly inform parents of their child’s attendance much more efficiently.’

Mr Binns continued:

‘Absence monitoring underlines the close way that the school works with parents as partners in the educational process. The system has helped us to be more effective in communicating with parents and the responses have been very favourable.

‘In the past, we have responded to requests from parents to have the option of contacting the school by email as well as the traditional methods of sending in absence notes and telephoning the school.

‘The new system is a natural extension of this practice and is facilitated by the good ICT facilities that are continually being developed by the Department of Education to support teaching and learning in schools. We are delighted to have the support of the Department in this initiative.

‘By 10am the school now has a full picture of who is in class, who isn’t and which pupils have arrived late. The system is extremely helpful and enables our staff to act quickly and efficiently.’

John Gill, the Department’s Legal and Administrative Support Unit Manager, said he learned about Electronic First Day Absence Monitoring at a conference in the UK.

He said:

Castle Rushen High School expressed an interest in trialling it and, on completion of the trial, we will be able to evaluate it to see if it has proved a valuable tool in cutting absenteeism and see if it might be useful for other schools.’

Mr Gill added:

‘We are endeavouring to be vigilant over pupils’ safety and well-being and ensure that if they are absent, it is with the knowledge of their parents.’

Stephen Clarke, Managing Director of Truancy Call Ltd, the company providing the software, commented: ‘Castle Rushen High School has recognised the importance of first-day contact with parents of absentees and the need to combat absenteeism in schools. We are delighted to hear that initial feedback is positive and their unauthorised absence rates have improved. It is important the school knows at all times where pupils are for their own safety and, should the child be missing, all parties can take immediate action.’

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