Anti-truancy success in Scotland

A new anti-truancy technology from a company co-founded by Bob Geldof is helping to reduce incidents of truancy across Scotland. The latest figures show that a reduction of as much as 27 per cent has been recorded in some areas since the new technology was implemented.

Jan 11, 2007
By David Howell

A new anti-truancy technology from a company co-founded by Bob Geldof is helping to reduce incidents of truancy across Scotland. The latest figures show that a reduction of as much as 27 per cent has been recorded in some areas since the new technology was implemented.

Groupcall Messenger allows schools to send text messages (SMS) to the mobile phones of parents, staff and other school contacts or voice messages to landlines or mobile phones, for a low monthly subscription fee. The system was developed in consultation with primary and secondary schools and provides First Day Contact, unauthorised absence chasing and general parental communication in one integrated desktop solution. The Groupcall system reads pupil and attendance information live and in real time from the school’s management system. A multi-lingual version enables schools to send messages in any language required by the school community.

“This is a phenomenal result,” said Mr Geldof. “Given that truancy rates have been increasing year on year, these figures represent a significant milestone for the technology in tackling truancy. We now have definitive evidence that this inexpensive system significantly reduces truancy. The potential ramifications of that for the rest of the country are huge.”

More than half of Scottish authorities have been using the Groupcall Messenger system over the past year following the announcement of a year-long pilot in 2005 by the Scottish Executive.

Scottish Education Minister Hugh Henry said: “Education is too important to allow pupils to miss lessons needlessly through truancy. That`s why we started a national pilot of automated alerts – currently being used in around 600 schools – to establish whether this would help crack down on truancy.

“It`s clear that the systems not only discourage absence but also have an added child protection benefit, alerting parents if their child unexpectedly fails to turn up at school. Following the success of the pilot, I`d encourage more schools to consider implementing absence alerts. Just last week, I announced that all schools would receive a share of £40 million for educational resources – and an alert system is an example of what they could use the cash for.

“I`m sure the alert system will help us continue to make inroads into tackling truancy. In particular, it will free up staff time to concentrate on the hard core of persistent truants – the two per cent of pupils responsible for half of truancy.”

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