Staff Reporter MODERN technologies will be used this school year to combat the growing problem of truancy in schools across the Balearic Islands. Last year 16.29 percent of pupils in secondary schools in Palma played truant. The ministry of education's general administration department will be calling on the help of mobile phones and text messaging, as a new way to track and fight the truancy problem.

When a school notices that a pupil is absent (either for several days or just sporadically) staff will be able to quickly and easily send a text message to get in touch with the child's parents or the local police.

A local police officer, or more exactly a police tutor assigned to the area, (a post which already exists in many towns around the islands), will be contacted via a text message, and will either look for the missing pupil or contact the parents directly. “This text messaging technology was started up last year in fifteen education centres in the Balearic Islands. “For the next school year the system can be used in all the public schools and colleges on the islands”, said the Director General of the Education Administration department, Jaume Juan. “We are asking for help from the town councils to fight against truancy in the schools, of course with the parents giving their permission so that the police can be advised when their child misses classes”, he added.

When a pupil skips school, the centre will advise the parents or the police tutor, who will attempt to find the pupil, or visit the family to find out possible reasons why the pupil is absent from classes. “This system is more effective in smaller towns, because everyone knows everyone in small towns and so to find the missing pupil will be relatively easy. This is not the case for Palma, for example, where it will be more difficult”, said Jaume Juan. “This problem really worries us and it is especially a problem in secondary schools, and also to a certain degree in primary schools, especially in the coastal areas,” he said.

The text messages will also be used by schools to inform parents about notices, advice and other any useful information.