Do u no whr ur kids r? Txt cld be the ansa

TRUANCY is now a thing of the past for pupils of Tring school, as a new system means parents are sent a text message everytime a student fails to register for class.

Year 10 pupils are currently being used to test-drive the new scheme as a way to cut down on unknown absences and unreported sick days.

Information is collated from every register, which is fed into a main database and the students who have failed to give a reason for not turning up at school will have a text message sent to their parents, alerting them of their child's absence.

The system uses a process of elimination to whittle down the students who have not left messages with the school already explaining their absence, or signed in separately because of delays.

The school believes the new scheme will help communication between parents, pupils and staff, and that text messaging provides a quick, and more convenient service for parents to explain their child's absence.

Pastoral support co-ordinator, Samantha Smissen, said many parents forget to alert the school when a child is off sick and text messaging provides a quick way of explaining why a child has not turned up for school.

"All the numbers for the parents are on the database, under each child's details. We can either text a mobile or if it's a land line, it will leave an automated message. The system also means specific children can be picked out because one parent may have three children at the school. You can text from anywhere and the parents can ring us if they want to - you can text while sitting in a meeting," she said.

Once a text message is received by a parent, they have the choice of either replying or leaving a message at the school reception. A text sent by a parent means that a pupil does not need to bring in a sick note signed by a parent - this prepares them for the real world, said Mrs Smissen.

She added that the scheme was about increasing communication in the school and changing old habits: "It's trying to improve the system and keeping tabs on people and knowing where they are and cutting down on administration because everybody is busy."

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The database system, called Sims, has been supplied by a local company and the new installation masterminds the whole operation. The school pays for every message sent and, so far, texts have been sent on a daily basis since the beginning of the month when the system came into use.

The scheme can work in a number of ways, added Mrs Smissen, as blanket texts can be sent out to parents on snow days and parents of a particular year group can be notified of school trips and other occasions. She said that so far, the text messages were getting through to parents and the scheme was working well, although it was too early to tell whether truancy rates had dropped as a result.

As one of the largest schools in Herts - with just under 1,500 pupils - the truancy rates at Tring school were very low anyway, said Mrs Smissen, and by September, the school hopes to roll out the scheme to the rest of the year groups.

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