Before you cut out for the long weekend, be thankful that your boss isn’t monitoring your whereabouts. One middle school in Alice Springs, Australia has instituted a GPS tracking program for its students that has improved attendance to a staggering 90%.
Centralian Middle School in Australia’s Northern Territory had an attendance rate of just 68% before instituting the program; now, with nearly 60 families enrolled, the number of reported non-attendances has dropped from 60 per week to just 5.
The program uses an app called “messageyou” which is installed on a child’s phone and connected to the school’s attendance system. If the student doesn’t report for school, the app alerts both the school and parents. What makes Centralian’s new program revolutionary, however, is the integration of GPS technology, which not only reports the missing student, but also triangulates their location through GPS, WiFi and mobile phone data.
messageyou is currently used in about 1,100 schools throughout Australia, but few have GPS capabilities.
This new system is part of Australia’s larger [sic] School Enrolment and Attendance Measure (SEAM) program, which was instituted to raise attendance among Aboriginal communities, mainly in the country’s Northern Territory. If parents aren’t sending their children to school, they risk losing welfare payments.
“Parents can no longer say they can’t be expected to comply because they don’t know where their child is,” said Centralian’s principal Andrew Leslie.
While many of those involved in the program are of the indigenous population, it has caught on with parents and students of every background.
“The rate of growth has been amazing,” said Mark Fortunatow, founder of MGM Wireless, the company responsible for messageyou. “It is effective to improve student safety and attendance, parents love it, schools are coming on board, and kids don’t seem to care.”
The program is free for the school and for parents. While some students may bemoan not being able to take the proverbial day off à la Ferris Bueller, parental peace of mind may cause the GPS program to spread across the country, and possibly around the world if it continues to be as successful as it has been.