Text alert to beat truants

Truancy remains a problem in Fife schools. (Picture posed by models)
Truancy remains a problem in Fife schools. (Picture posed by models)
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“PLAYING hookey” or “bunking off” school could become a much rarer occurence in the future, with the introduction of a new text alert system.

The Parent Messaging System will enable a text or voicemail message to be sent out to parents or carers if their child is missing from class, within minutes of the register being taken, ensuring swift action can be taken on unexplained or repeated absences from school.

The introduction of the new system was highlighted at a recent meeting of the Kirkcaldy area committee when the high level of absenteeism from schools, both explained and unexplained, was commented on by councillors.

The latest statistics show that for the school year 2010-11 the absence rate at Balwearie was 9.8 per cent, while at St Andrews High School in Kirkcaldy it was 12 per cent for the same period. The national average was 8.8 per cent.

Absenteeism

Councillor George Kay said that the levels of absenteeism which were experienced in the public sector, including schools, would not be tolerated in the private sector otherwise “companies would go to the wall.”

The rectors from both schools acknowledged that the rate was too high and said steps were being taken to address the problem, with hopes that the new text alert system would have a positive impact.

Fife Council’s education service is set to introducing the new text, email and voicemail system as part of a Fife-wide campaign to improve communication with parents and to cut pupil absenteeism.

Schools will use the system to communicate information to parents via a text message or voicemail about school events such as fayres, parents’ evenings and appointments. And, if their child does not register in school for the morning or afternoon sessions, an automated message may be sent to parents.

Parents will also be able to use the system to let the school know as early as possible why their child is absent.

Bryan Kirkaldy, head of education for the central area, said: “We are pleased to be introducing this improvement to our communication with parents.

‘‘The system will also help us to improve pupils’ attendance by contacting parents directly if their child does not register, and will help us to ensure that pupils are safe and in school when they should be.

“We have sent letters to all parents with details of the new system and hope that they find it move convenient than telephoning the school office first thing in the morning, which tends to be busy at this time of day.”