Parent Notification Systems

High schools are starting to look towards SMS (mobile phone Short Messaging Service) as a method of combating truancy at school.  In most cases of truancy these days, parents are not necessarily informed about their child's unexplained absence from school for several weeks after the event.  SMS offers an almost instant way of alerting parents that their child is not at school the same day, or better still, the same morning.  Schools that have adopted one of these parent-alert solutions are reporting a major decrease in truancy.  Victorian and NSW schools are using a system developed in South Australia and are reporting between 50 and 80% decrease in truancy.

Typically, these systems work by linking in with the school attendance reporting system and any unscheduled absence triggers the sending of an SMS message to the parent's mobile phone number.  Parents are firstly notified that the school is aware of their child's absence and asks the parent to contact the school to explain the absence, if there is a known reason.  If the reason is unknown to the parent, then they are more likely to act in response to their child's unexplained absence.  As a parent, it is difficult to act if they are not alerted to the absence until several weeks after the event.

The schools with these systems are also becoming aware of the cost of operating such systems when they involve specialised software, SMS gateways and ongoing SMS charges for each message sent.  In most cases, these costs extend to several thousand dollars per year, in some cases, over $10,000.  Still, this can be significantly cheaper and is far more effective than the traditional postal service method of alerting parents.


The EduWeb School Personnel Automated Short Messaging System (SPASMS) is a system designed for public schools to utilise a centralised (department-based) SMS-gateway via the department wide-area network and intranet.  By centralising the SMS gateway, an SMS-based Parent Notification System becomes accessible to all schools, and not just those that can afford it.  An education department is then able to negotiate better SMS access and pricing through various Telco's on behalf of all schools, rather than schools being forced to each fund their own solutions at inflated prices.

EduWeb SPASMS can be run in single mode to send one message at a time, or it can be run in Batch mode which is explained further below.  But basically, you then just select a predefined SMS message and send it off, as shown below:

Here is an example of the SPASMS form filled out:

All of the Predefined messages are custom definable as are the common phrases in the SMS Message Constructor in the middle of the form (best seen in the first screen shot).  Using this Constructor, it's just a simple task to click on the desired phrases and the SMS is built up for you.  This makes SPASMS great for not only parent notification, but also Staff notification.  If the Principal is off on the other side of the school for example, the school could ring him/her on their mobile, but that costs money.  A simple SMS could be sent to them with just four clicks of the mouse - 1. "You have a visitor." 2. "Please come to the office" 3. "as soon as possible." 4. Send SMS Message.  With a centrally-funded SMS Gateway, there should be zero cost to the school to send this message.  Of course, if you don't want to automatically construct your SMS message, you can still type it into the SMS Message box the old-fashioned way (but using a QWERTY keyboard instead of a phone number pad).

EduWeb SPASMS in Batch Mode

Here's where the real power of SPASMS comes in.  It can be tailored to fit in with existing school administration and attendance systems and be run in batch mode.  For example, you could have your attendance system produce an output file containing the day's absences.  SPASMS can be told to read in that file as a database and automatically send an "absence" SMS to each absent child's parent.  SPASMS also keeps a log of every SMS it sends, including date, time, recipient, mobile number, message contents and sender's IP address.  SPASMS can be run from any Windows PC on the school network and does not need to be tied down to a specific computer.

Proof of Concept

SPASMS has been tested on the NSW DET WAN and has been shown to work as specified.  It is hoped that a trial of SPASMS can be extended into two high schools during term 2, 2005 with a view to determine the load and implications for the DET SMS Gateway.  If wider use for SPASMS in NSW DET is planned, further software development will then continue to include features that suit user requirements.

Stu's EduWeb and all of its add-on modules are designed and developed  by Stuart Hasic -  It is available free of charge for public schools in the state of New South Wales in Australia only.  Other schools interested in Stu's EduWeb should contact the developer directly. (c) 2001-2005 by Stuart Hasic