School leavers in Nottingham are to be given cash incentives to stay in education, after implementation of smartcard technology in schools and colleges, writes Daniel Thomas.
GuideLine Career Services, with e-business provider Bull, have developed a youth smartcard, called Connexions Card, as part of a Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) initiative.
The cards, issued to people between the ages of 16 and 19, will be used to operate a reward points system to encourage youngsters to continue with their education.
Pupils at Bluecoat school in Aspley, Nottingham, took part in the pilot scheme. It has now been rolled out to over 20 schools and colleges in the Nottingham area. Pupils use the card to "register" in and out of lessons, enabling teachers to monitor individual attendance. Reward points are allocated for good attendance and behaviour. They can be exchanged for discounts in local Nottingham stores and leisure centres.
Alan Laird, principal consultant at Bull, described smartcard's potential. "With the participation of local transport companies, the system has been extended beyond local stores. The scope can be widened to offer a range of discounts. These include reduced-cost Internet access and discounts on books and equipment. Cards also have a portable file to carry information."
The cards use Bull's multifunctional smartcard technology. There are two types of reader, a fixed-point unit, which attaches to walls in classrooms and corridors, and a handheld model for teachers monitoring attendance. The readers can also award pupils on-the-spot points for good behaviour.
Some pupils may object to teachers knowing their every move, but Laird said, "Students have grown up with technology and are fully embracing the scheme."
As for teachers, Laird said, "We hope teaching staff will see the immediate benefits of isolating truancy issues and able to reward attendance other than verbal praise. The system is very easy to use - vital in the busy school environment."
The cards are issued by GuideLine Career Services as part of the DfEE's Connexions strategy, which aims to ensure everyone stays in education, working to achieve a worthwhile qualification by the time they turn 19.
Laird said, "The Bull smartcard technology has obvious applications in business and e-Government alike. We'll be working with our colleagues in Government to make this a reality for every pupil in the UK."
Advantages of the smartcard scheme
This was first published in November 2000