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Voice mail keeps parents in touch

UNITED STATES. Schools taking part in a new system which allows parents to check on their child's education and homework assignments by calling a voice mail system have reported a five-fold increase in parental involvement.

More than 100 schools in seven states have furnished voice mailboxes for teachers to leave recorded messages that parents can check day or night to learn about their children's school activities and homework assignments.

More than a third of the participating parents report feeling less stress at work as a result of knowing what their children are doing in class, according to a study of the programme by researchers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

The study found that parental involvement increased by an average of 487 per cent and each teacher was able to communicate with an average of 15 parents per day, compared to about three per day before the system was installed.

"Dramatic increases like these are virtually unheard of in educational programmes," said Jerold P Bauch, the lead researcher at Vanderbilt's Center for Parenthood Education.

About 43 per cent of families used the voice messaging system regularly, checking the daily messages left by their child's teacher at least once a week.

The $1.4 million (Pounds 1m) experiment, called The Bridge Project, is being underwritten by the American Business Collaboration for Quality Dependent Care, a coalition of 22 major corporations including American Express, Kodak, Hewlett Packard, IBM and Citibank.

It involves schools in California, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New York State and Virginia.

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