Orara High?s swipe at truancy
By ANN-MARIE MAY
ORARA High students thinking about skipping school and heading to the beach be warned: you will be caught.
The local high school takes truancy very seriously, with principal Graham Mosey this week signing off on a deal that will send shivers down the spine of many students ? an electronic attendance system.
The system will allow attendance data to be captured by using swipe card technology and electronic roll-call systems.
Coming on line in the early weeks of Term 1 of next year, Mr Mosey said each student will be issued with a swipe card that carries a photo of the student, their date of birth and that they attend Orara High School.
Not just to monitor their whereabouts, the card will also be used as a library card and proof of age for such things as movie tickets and transport.
And playing the part of Big Brother will be the students' roll-call teacher who will hold a list of the students, accompanied by their photo, an individual bar code and space to mark off each day of the week.
"The teachers will call the roll in the conventional way, and if a student isn't there they will put a cross under that day," Mr Mosey said.
"The roll-call sheets are then scanned into the system and if a student isn't present an SMS will be sent to the parents who signed up for the program.
"Parents can text back saying their child is sick and it will then be recorded as an explained absence. If no reply SMS a letter will be sent out."
Studies show the introduction of student ID card swiping and electronic roll-call marking can result in savings of over 30 per cent in administration time and result in accurate data being recorded.
"The only clerical work is the teachers putting the cross on the list," Mr Mosey said.
If a student arrives at school late, they'll need to go to the roll-call office and swipe their card and get a late note.
All students leaving the school throughout the day receive a school leave pass with their image printed for easy identification.
So is it a case of Big Brother taking over the school? Not at all, according to Mr Mosey.
"To send a letter it costs us 50 cents for the stamp, but we will only pay 18 cents an SMS. Because it is much cheaper we will have more money to spend on other important resources," he said.
"And more importantly it is a matter of keeping parents informed. If they think their child is at school and, in fact they are not, they have the right to know."
Studies show absentee rates using technology such as text messaging has resulted in unexplained absence rates being reduced by more than 35 per cent.