Public Sector Roundup: Technology tackles truancy

Stafford Sports College installs automatic truancy parent notification system

Stafford Sports College, a small sports-focused secondary school, is cracking down on unauthorised absences, implementing a new parent notification system dubbed "Truancy Call."

The system notifies parents of a child's absence via e-mail, voice calling, or SMS text messaging, without the cost to the school of purchasing extra hardware. Parents can complete a registration for the service, and, if their child is absent, Truancy Call will call or e-mail repeatedly until a response is received (text messages are only sent once).

Dr Rowena Blencowe, head teacher at Stafford Sports College, has said using Truancy Call has reduced unauthorised absences, and has also made contacting parents easier for the school. "The system has cut the amount of time we spend contacting the parents. Previously we had to call all the parents individually, but now we press a button and Truancy Call does the job for us."

Online travel service for British forces launched

A new web site called "Defence Travel" was launched earlier this week. The online service enables British forces in the UK and overseas to book business travel quickly, simply, securely, and cost-effectively.

The service is replacing a wide variety of systems used now, and will allow Navy, Air Force, and Ministry of Defence (MoD) personnel to book business travel in the form of hotels, flights, train tickets, or road travel. The MoD expects the new service will generate savings of about 35 million per year from 2009 onwards.

Dr. Cliff Evans, vice president for defence sector at Capgemini, said: "The project is a tremendous example of effective collaboration between the public and private sectors, and it shows how public sector services can be made faster, simpler and more user-friendly while at the same time becoming much more cost-effective."

Manchester Police award contract for handheld and mobile radio devices

The Greater Manchester Police (GMP has awarded a multi-year managed service contract to SunGard Public Sector. The contract will help support the force's 10,700 handheld and 820 mobile TETRA terminals, as will as 70 operator terminals that use SunGard's DS2000 ICCS.

SunGard has been working with the GMP since 1995, when it supplied and installed its ICCS. SunGard was also signed in 2001 to manage the GMP's TETRA radio network, the first act of outsourcing management by the metropolitan force.

Home Choice service launched in Tandridge

Tandridge District Council has launched its new Home Choice service, advertising all vacant council and housing association properties on its Home Choice Website. Users must be on the housing register, and can then bid on up to three properties. The bids, which is the only way people will be considered for a vacancy, can only be submitted on the web site or on the 24 hour bidding line at 0845 270 1908.

If there are multiple bids on one property, the applicant with the greatest need and has been waiting the longest will be awarded the property.

"The new system gives prospective tenants more choice about finding their future home. The service can show them the type of property available, how popular an area is and how long they would normally have to wait," said councillor Matthew Groves, chairman of the Housing Committee. "This helps them quickly decide whether to look at other types of property or areas, if it means they are more likely to be successful."