Parents SMS Student Absences

Absences

SMS is now being used by schools to capture student absences.  This cuts down the morning phone time  used by office staff and allows them to deal with “face time” with parents, teachers and students.

Schools are busy places, especially between 8.30 am and9.30 am in the morning .. and especially for office staff.  This is when students and teachers are arriving, parents are coming and going and the phones are ringing.

There are several specialized companies on the market which enable virtual mobile phone numbers.  If you are familiar with TV shows like Australian Idol or Big Brother you will be aware that voting is often done via SMS where people sitting at home watching TV can vote.  The phone numbers provided are virtual phone numbers.  This means that the numbers are set up for the sole purpose of incoming messages only.  This sort of infrastructure is EXPENSIVE.  Price alone rules out most schools for using something like this.

How the Safe Newsletters SMS Absence system works.

To reduce costs for schools, Safe Newsletters uses a work around yet still implements a fully functional SMS system.

Here’s what you will need.

  • SIM Only plan from a telecommunication company such as Optus or Telstra.  Amayasim offer very cheap SIM only plans.
  • Mobile phone is NOT necessary.
  • Safe Newsletters SMS enabled PRO account.  Charges apply to each SMS a parent sends you.
  • An email account

Telecommunication companies these days offer a SIM only plan.  In other words you can buy a SIM card without the phone.  SIM only plans come in different flavours but essentially you purchase the SIM card and NOT a phone.

You DO NOT need an expensive SIM only plan.  Because you will be using it for incoming SMS messages ONLY… an expensive plan is NOT necessary.  In fact a $10 per month plan will suffice.

Essentially there are 2 types of SIM only plans.

  • Post paid and
  • Pre paid.

A post paid plan is a contracted plan over 12 or 24 months at a fixed price plus call costs once the included cap is reached.  If there are no outgoing calls then the total cost of the SIM card would be $120 per year on a $10 per month plan.  This could be automatically paid using the school corporate credit card.

A prepaid plan is where you buy credit when you need it.  Prepaid phone numbers expire if you don’t apply credit within 3 months.  Because the phone number will only be used for incoming SMS… there should NOT be any out going call expenses right?  Therefore, in theory if you applied credit to the SIM every 3 months the SIM would only cost $40 per year.  But in reality, there needs to be at least one chargeable call within 3 months so that the phone company won’t cancle your SIM card.  If the number does ultimately expires .. there is a good chance you will need a new number.  This could be very embarrassing.  Be diligent using prepaid SIM only plans

What Next?

Activate the SIM card.  Often this can be done online.

Use the SMS mobile phone number that comes with the SIM card and distribute this number to your parent group.  Encourage your parent group to use the mobile number your provide them to SMS student absences.

The SMS messages from parents will be redirected as EMAIL by Safe Newsletters to your email account.  This way the phone doesn’t have to be on… BUT the SMS will be nicely collated into your email account to action when you are ready…

Shop Around

Have a look around and get some advice from your local mobile phone dealer and ask about SIM only plans.  Amaysim seem to be the cheapest and most flexible with their SIM only plans.

Summary

If school office staff need to reduce phone time and increase face time then a student SMS absence solution might be worth considering.

Shop around for a good SIM only SMS phone plan.

Call Safe Newsletters and find out if a SMS solution is cost effective and good fit for your school.