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5 Things to think about this week

1. Techno alert on truancy

1. Techno alert on truancy

1. Techno alert on truancy

Consider using attendance messaging to support your drive on attendance (it automatically alerts parents of absentees by text, phone or email). There are other uses too, as schools were able to keep parents up to date about closures during the recent teachers' strike. But be aware that attendance messaging needs to be managed sensitively.

Key point: Whichever brand you go for must integrate with your electronic registration software, so talk to your management information system (MIS) supplier or authority MIS team. There's also good advice on the Becta website.

becta.org.uk (search "attendance messaging")

2. Become a pathfinder

Watch out for a new scheme from Aimhigher, the Department for Children, Schools and Families programme aiming to raise aspirations among disadvantaged students. Called Aimhigher Associates, it will put volunteer university students in long-term contact as mentors to pupils coming up to GCSE. Pathfinder pilots will start this September; it should be launched nationally in autumn 2009. If you're interested in being a pathfinder, contact your local Aimhigher Partnership.

www.aimhigher.ac.uksitespractitionerwho_s_who_area_contacts.cfm

3. Ticket for the Shetland Bus

You've told your children about evacuees, ration books, the Blitz and Vera Lynn. But what about The Shetland Bus - the boats that ran between Shetland and occupied Norway (a shorter journey than Shetland to London) during the Second World War, carrying undercover agents? It's a heroic, little-known tale. The work on it by Scalloway Junior High in Shetland, in conjunction with museums in Norway, is a prime example of how to teach children about the wars.

Key point: The Historical Association is running an archaeology tour to Shetland and Orkney in August, looking at modern and ancient history.

www.scalloway.shetland.sch.uk; www.history.org.uk

4. Prepare to greet the pioneers

Have you considered how you will welcome next September's Year 7s and their parents? They're the first cohort who will be in education to the age of 18, moving through a new set of choices and experiences including the new vocational diplomas. Maybe it won't be enough to dust off the usual speeches. Liz Allen, head of Newstead Wood Girls in Bromley, says: "I talk to parents now about a learning journey rather than a group of subjects - a much better learning experience, where they're more in control."

5. Create a policy on laptops

The advent of cheap laptops means schools are buying in bulk. The TES website, though, has teachers expressing concern about classroom management - storage, handing out, collecting in, charging up. Mark Peate of Sandwell authority, pioneers of classroom laptops, points out that the long-term vision is for pupils to take responsibility - "as they do for their mobile phones, after all". Until then, consider who (teacher, teaching assistant, technician) is going to do what, where and and when, then make a policy.

Send your contributions or suggestions for this column to gerald.haigh@btinternet.com.

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