Most schools may frown on those who send mobile-phone text messages, but one authority hopes to use them to boost results. Chris Johnston reports
A text-message soap opera is being played out on the mobile phones of hundreds of Year 11 pupils in the North-west to help them improve results.
The novel scheme in Merseyside uses the tale of a teenage love triangle to encourage students to make use of on-line revision help.
It was dreamed up by Knowsley Council and the North West Learning Grid as part of a strategy to improve GCSE grades. The council's schools have the second-lowest results in the country.
Damian Allen, of Knowsley's education department, came up with the idea of the WAN2LRN (Want to Learn) scheme as a way of attracting pupils to a website that offers tips on revising and exam technique as well as resources and links to other useful sites.
Each day a text message is sent to subscribers apparently from one of the soap's three characters - Kym, Jez or Abi - who, like the pupils, are facing exam pressures.
Those unfamiliar with the world of text-mssage abbreviations may need help with last Friday's effort: "Jez here. got 2 get rvsion tmetble in soon! pain in the nek!! spose we shld do it tho. rthr b at film 2nite wth a. cul8r j" The website offers a glossary of abbreviations along with copies of all the messages and background about the characters.
Revision worries recur in the soap, a tactic that Mr Allen hopes will spur pupils to log on to the site, whose address is given at the end of each message. He believes the scheme may be the first educational application of text messaging in the UK. All messages are sent outside school hours.
The pound;10,000, six-week experiment ties in with other incentives such as football tickets for pupils who complete coursework or have a good attendance record. Packs have also been issued to parents so they can help children devise and stick to a revision schedule.
To evaluate the impact of the scheme, the results of those who subscribed will be compared with those of a control group that did not take part.
More on the WAN2LRN scheme at www.knowitall.org.ukwan2lrn.htm