[color=green:36518b8699]Will they still want to go to NZ if this spreads?[/color:36518b8699]

[b:36518b8699]Waggers beware as parents spy online[/b:36518b8699]
12 February 2006

Parents of students at one of the country's largest colleges will soon be able to log on to the internet to check on their children's behaviour, a development experts say will revolutionise schools' accountability. Auckland's Avondale College is downloading student information daily, including detentions, NCEA progress reports and class attendance records, to a secure website set up for parents. The site, dubbed "The Family Connection", will allow access to wide-ranging information about students' academic performance, attendance and behaviour, outside the usual mid-year and end-of-year reporting cycle. Education experts say it will revolutionise schools' accountability to parents and will inevitably be copied nationwide.

"A number of schools in New Zealand have been skirting around the issue but haven't been as brave as this," said Secondary Principals Association president Graham Young. "I'm sure that a lot of schools will follow this. There will be a real snowball effect."

Parents, who were advised of the new website yesterday, will be able to log on within a fortnight to check their children's classes and detentions, and keep tabs on their attendance period by period. Principal Brent Lewis said students were aghast. "They may well blink because they know how many periods they go walkabout. The lates to class will show up."

Overseas, schools have gone as far as installing web cameras for teachers and parents to track children at school, but Lewis insisted the website would not become a Big Brother spy-tool. Overuse would be monitored and parents' access limited if the school thought it was being used to harass children. "The whole point of this isn't to run a tougher disciplinary system but to lift student performance by having their parents along for the ride," Lewis said.

Most of the data is already provided in reports or at parent-teacher evenings, but by putting it online and updating it daily it will be easier for parents to get on top of problems sooner. Parent Joe Flynn, whose son has just started Year 9, welcomed the site as a tool for talking to "grunting" teens about what went on in class and a reassurance for parents who could check their kids were okay or arm themselves with information before ringing teachers with concerns, which could be daunting. "I think it's fantastic," Flynn said. "Other schools would be mad not to add this to their canon."

Education Review Office acting chief officer Mike Hollings expects parents elsewhere will demand similar access to the data held on their child. Parents needed the real-time information the website provided to effectively engage in their child's learning. Avondale parents will be able to access data only on their child, through a secure password. Information such as homework assignments will not be included, but may be added later. A summary of attendance has been built in to show parents how many classes their child misses, not just through wagging but also through sports trips and family holidays.

Lewis said students could miss 20 classes when their families took holidays four days early. In some cases, they could lose up to 40 days of class time because of sporting commitments. "For every missed class, kids aren't getting the learning they need," he said. "It's not about whether your child is naughty, but the decisions your family is making and the impact it has." Education Minister Steve Maharey is monitoring the initiative closely. He intends to promote it nationwide if it proves successful, but will stop short of directing schools to use it.

Maharey is keen to open access to information held in his ministries, but only where it has an educational purpose. Releasing diagnostic test results, for instance, would be counterproductive, he said. "It's got to have a good educational outcome and not be a tool for market analysis."