UK officials fighting school truancy have something new in their arsenal -- a program to text-message parents of offenders, reports EADT 24.
The government has selected five schools in North Essex with a particularly high rate of truancy for the new "text alert system."
The system will notify parents within minutes of their child failing to turn up and students will also receive a text message saying in effect, "We know you are off." Fines and weekend detentions are among the punishments for truants.
Nearly 6,000 pupils in Essex are regularly "off school," with 7% of the county's youngsters regarded as persistent absentees.
Those figures include truants, pupils who are temporarily excluded, those off sick, and youngsters taking term-time holidays with their family.
"At the end of the day we (the union) are as concerned as anybody else that kids are not attending school and we welcome initiatives designed to positively support attendance at school," commented Jerry Glazier, general secretary for the Essex branch of the National Union of Teachers.
"But the real issue is about treating the causes of the problem, not the symptoms, and a lot more work can be done in that area, especially why it is kids aren't coming to school. We want to see joined up co-ordinated strategies funded by central Government to support schools against truancy and disaffection."