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Even jannies log on at 'electronic school'

Greenwood Academy in Irvine claimed to be Scotland's first "electronic school" this week, parading a whole series of dramatic benefits from the application of information technology.

The school says it has used technology to beat truancy, boost pupil attainment and operate a reward system which has improved pupils' behaviour.

It now plans to enable parents to call up information on how children are performing in each subject via a school website, following a successful pilot in England.

North Ayrshire Council claims Greenwood is the first school in Scotland to use technology on this scale, although e-registration is deployed in around 700 schools south of the border.

Philip Galbraith, Greenwood's headteacher, says there are enormous benefits, just in terms of saving on the routine administration of registering pupils. All 84 teachers have been issued with a mini-keyboard the size of a Filofax which allows them to record absenteeism for each class.

As a result of being able to record pupil movement within the school and detect patterns of non-attendance quickly, Greenwood has seen ts absence rate fall from 15 per cent in 1997 to 9 per cent last session, which was below the national average for secondary schools of 11 per cent. Current levels are running at around 7 per cent.

Bromcom, a Kent-based software company which supplied the system, has nominated Greenwood as a centre of excellence in school management technology. Even the janitors are logged on.

The combination of a pupil behaviour system with the Internet-based pupil performance monitoring system, which the school installed in January, is what Greenwood claims gives it the electronic edge.

Developed by the Aberdeen-based Pisys computer software company, the system automatically works out pupils' grades from the raw data fed in by teachers, calculates their likely success in all their subjects and highlights where pupils are failing to meet their targets.

North Ayrshire plans to introduce the software in all its 10 secondaries by August.

Mr Galbraith says the slashing of paperwork to the bare minimum has allowed Greenwood to concentrate on improving the quality of classwork in the school.

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