NZ Government invests in anti-truancy SMS

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NZ Government invests in anti-truancy SMS

Systems dob truant students in.

The New Zealand Ministry of Education has given secondary schools a total of NZ$1.4m (A$1.1m) for SMS systems that notify the parents and caregivers of absent students.

Implementation and use of these so-called Early Notification (EN) message services will be fully funded for eligible public schools until May 2011, after which schools may decide to continue the service at their own cost.

The scheme supports EN systems from only three 'preferred suppliers': ASX-listed MGM Wireless; Solvam Corporation; and TxtStream, the latter two based in New Zealand.

It is one of a dozen initiatives to reduce truancy in New Zealand, to which the Government dedicates NZ$4m (A$3.2m) per year.

Preferred suppliers were appointed following a tender process. By quickly and cheaply alerting parents to truancy, the Government hopes to prevent casual truancy from becoming habit, improving punctuality, and monitoring the welfare of students.

MGM Wireless CEO Mark Fortunatow expects uptake of the vendor's Messageyou technology to be stronger in New Zealand than in any other market it operates in currently.

He explained that the system profiles students according to "needs, culture and attendance behaviour", detects unexplained absences and creates and sends "appropriately worded" SMS messages to their caretakers.

Depending on the modules required by individual schools, Messageyou costs upwards of "a couple of dollars" per student per year, he said.

Since its launch in October 2003, the technology has been adopted by more than 650 schools in Australia, New Zealand and the USA, including all WA Government schools and schools in Sydney.

An MGM Wireless review of 38 South Australian schools reported that truancy had decreased from 13.35 percent in 2004 to 11.59 percent in 2006 after implementation of its EN system.

As of March 2010, 4.2 percent of New Zealand's 750,000 students were reported truant every day. The Ministry of Education said this figure remained almost unchanged from 2006.

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