Centralian School in Northern Territory is one of the first schools worldwide to use a mobile App based system integrated with the school’s attendance records to track the location of students who don’t turn up at school.
Centralian has used MGM messageyou™ with Pinpoint to monitor compliance with the Australian Government’s School Enrolment and Attendance Measure (SEAM), reducing the number of students who require follow-up for unexplained absences from 60 per week to just five.
Already a leader in SMS for attendance management and school messaging, MGM Wireless introduced MGM PinPoint in 2013 as the first service to link school roll-marking data to mobile location based services on smartphones. If a student is absent without a reason, the parent will receive a text message notifying the parent of the child’s absence from school, accompanied by a link to locate the child on a map.
The MGM Pinpoint service is available now to the over 1,000 schools and 1 million parents across Australia who currently use messageyou.
Andrew Leslie, Principal of Centralian School, saw the system’s potential when it was launched nationally in February 2014 following extensive trials.
Mr Leslie said that Centralian School works in a challenging environment where high levels of truancy have been widely reported.
SEAM targets students in remote Aboriginal communities who do not attend school for at least 80% of the time.
“Through the SEAM program, the Department of Human Services via Centrelink has given schools greater powers to achieve compliance,” Mr Leslie explains.
“Each week children are identified as in danger of missing out on adequate schooling. Their parents are informed and a meeting arranged with the school and truancy compliance officers.”
If the problem continues without adequate proof that an effort has been made to ensure the child’s attendance, an Attendance Order may be issued. If compliance still isn’t achieved, welfare payments may be reduced.
“The results are clear,” Mr Leslie says. “Since we implemented the messageyou SMS system combined with MGM Pinpoint, parents can no longer say they can’t be expected to comply because they don’t know where their child is.
“We’ll be recommending MGM Pinpoint to all schools and parents to effect positive change in our schools.”
The dramatic shift for Centralian happened over the last year, which coincides with the implementation of messageyou.
“What we’re seeing is a combination of compliance measures and technology and a concerted effort by the school having a significant impact on ingrained non-attendance,” Mr Leslie said.
“Our attendance team reports that we now only have five referrals a week whereas before we were dealing with 60 children and their families at a time.”
The traditional approach to absence notification is to phone parents on the day of absence or send letters 10 days after three consecutive days’ absence, which is current policy in most Education Departments across Australia.
“These approaches are time consuming for school staff, expensive in terms of ineffective use of staff, expensive in terms of cost of phone calls or letters, and unreliable in terms of actually contacting the parent,” MGM Wireless CEO Mr Fortunatow says.
“The time between notifying an unexplained absence and finding out why the child didn't attend school may increase non-attendance and adversely impact on student learning.”
MGM Pinpoint is an extension of the MGM messageyou intelligent and automated text messaging system for absence notifications and management. For the system to operate, parents are required to install the MGM Pinpoint app on to the child’s smartphone.
“Our services are dedicated to using the most common device available to parents and schools – the mobile phone – to monitor attendance and the safety of children,” Mr Fortunatow said.
“The services enhance the relationship between parents, caregivers and students by providing a safety net based on negotiated expectations.”
Mr Leslie notes that the more parents who download the app to their child’s phone, the more useful it is as a preventive measure.
“Initial takeup will be slow, as it is for most innovative technologies, but eventually it will gain acceptance and then become commonplace,” Mr Leslie says.
“Existing parent groups may not want to change their familiar way of doing things but we plan to introduce the system to our Year 7 cohorts as part of the attendance management process.”
Mr Leslie said that parents tend to have more concerns for younger children around independence and how children use their independence.
“As the child grows older they are more confident in the way their child behaves, hence it is important to get in early to initiate good attendance habits at the family level,” he said.
To increase safety measures, MGM Pinpoint incorporates a 'Get HELP' alert feature. When activated by the student, a free SMS is instantly sent to parents with a link in the message to the child’s most current location. For extra safety and protection, the child can also activate a loud audible alarm.
Mr Leslie also applauded the anti-bullying feature to be rolled out as part of MGM PInpoint in the coming months.
“Bullying is an issue that can have a direct impact on school attendance and engagement. It will give parents peace of mind to install this app on their child’s phone.” ##