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Government evaluating truancy texting pilot

12 April 2005 Media Statement

Government evaluating truancy texting pilot

A pilot anti-truancy project, which automatically notifies parents by text message if their children are not at school, is being evaluated by the government to see if it will be suitable for all schools.

Associate Education Minister David Benson-Pope says the early notification pilot in five schools has just been completed.

"This is cutting edge technology and uses a range of notification techniques - email, text, mobile and landline voice calls," said Mr Benson-Pope. "Anecdotally, I am told schools involved indicated that attendance rates improved significantly once they started sending electronic messages to parents.

"Absence data, recorded by teachers, is combined with contact details in the school's student management systems (SMS), which then generates an instant 'alert' to caregivers. Schools can know if a parent is aware their child is absent within minutes and set about challenging the behaviour of a student who is truant."

All the data gathered during the four-month pilot will be used to determine how or when the technology can be rolled out to all schools that would benefit from its incorporation into school SMS.

Mr Benson-Pope says he is looking forward to seeing results from the pilot to see how effective the project has been. He says that because the software is new in New Zealand it will be important to know if it will be a useful tool here.

"If the system has performed as well as similar systems overseas we think it has the potential to reduce truancy. It will improve the timeliness and quality of school-parent communications about attendance and absence, and will free up resources at schools allowing them to focus on harder cases."

Mr Benson-Pope says he expects to have an evaluation report within a month for his consideration.

Mr Benson-Pope says the early notification pilot is one of several initiatives to combat truancy being worked on by the Ministry of Education. Today he also announced $4.8million of new funding in Budget 2005 for an electronic enrolment system and reported on a successful parent prosecutions pilot in Auckland.

Fact sheet: Truancy initiatives

The government funds 42 separate programmes and spends over $650 million a year providing additional support for at-risk students to succeed in education.

Truancy and Engagement Initiatives
- The Suspension Reduction Initiative (SRI) is a targeted programme for schools with relatively high rates of suspension to reduce exclusion and suspension.
- The Student Engagement Initiative (SEI) is a recent expansion of the SRI to a package of initiatives with a focus on ensuring engagement in education. The SEI includes:
- a review of District Truancy Services (DTS) to ensure that the system is appropriately structured to help schools manage truancy, and that the funding for DTS is allocated proportionate to need
- the development and pilot of a streamlined truancy prosecution process for parents who support or condone their children’s non-attendance
- early notification of absence and truancy through text message and e-mail
- a new student management system for tracking re-enrolment of students
- further research into barriers to learning and engagement

Interagency Work
- Full Service Education is an interagency pilot for the provision of social, health and education services to at-risk students.
- The Youth Offending Strategy is an interagency initiative, which includes the development of teams to support youth offenders in learning and the provision of specialised educational needs assessments for youth offenders.
- Successful Youth Transitions provides pathways to employment and further learning for post-compulsory students (16-19 year olds) through school- and workplace-based programmes such as Gateway and STAR.

Alternative Pathways
- The government funds Alternative Education providers, Activity Centres, and Teen Parent Units to provide alternative learning settings and courses for students that are disengaged or alienated from mainstream schools.
- The Correspondence School provides distance learning opportunities for students that have disengaged or been excluded from school.

Specialised Support
- Behaviour Support Teams support positive participation by students with severe behavioural problems. Their role encompasses both crisis management and one-on-one support to decrease inappropriate behaviour.
- Social Workers in Schools, administered by CYF, provides social workers that work closely with primary schools and other health and education professionals in the community.

ENDS

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