Electronic Attendance and swipe card methods
Sentinal Swipe card system
Attendance capture Hardware
The college will be able to claim free hardware
Portable card readers; one reader per 12 students, plus a 10% backup stock. Replacements will
be provided free. The readers are small handheld units with a numeric keyboard and display.
They are powered by conventional batteries.
Network reader: one per college, plus a spare. This must plug into a networked PC.
The tutor initiates the data capture session by inserting their card into the portable reader, and
entering a session ID. It is not yet clear what form this session ID will take, or how it will be
Students insert their cards in turn.
If a student has forgotten their card:
a temporary card can be issued, or
the tutor can enter the students Connexions card number via the keyboard
The tutor closes the data capture session by re-inserting their card (and presumably pressing one
or more keys on the keypad to confirm the operation). The student "swipe" data is then
transferred onto the tutor card.
After the lesson (at the end of the day?) the tutor inserts their card into a network reader which
will download the data from the card.
Last updated: 7/2/2001
Case Studies and comments:
As a result of installing Radun's Smart Card System (Sentinel e-registration), we have saved 10 minutes per day "dead"
classroom administration time, which we have converted into real teaching time.
Over a year that amounts to about one-and-a-quarter weeks more teaching for every one of our students.
On becoming a Technology College the school management decided that a swipe card system of registration would be of benefit
to both students and staff in terms of raising the profile of Technology in the College and also from the point of view of tracking
students more accurately during the day.
After considerable research we decided upon the Sentinel system. The company Radun Controls, installed the system during the
summer holidays in order to minimise the disruption so caused. The installation team were very efficient and friendly and left the
site in good condition.
The system has proved to be totally reliable with all hardware performing to expectations. The software reports the whereabouts
of all students and is used to prepare a number of reports for form tutors and teaching staff. The only weakness of the system is
the time that it takes to calculate absences. However this is gradually improving as students and staff become more accustomed
to the system.
The after sale support provided by the company has been excellent. Same day fixing of problems and changes to the system are
the norm, even when the school has wanted to change the timetable structure at the beginning of June!
In all our dealing with the company, the service provided has been fast, friendly and efficient.
Our Sentinel System allows us to monitor the attendance of over 5,000 students.
It is a valuable tool in determining whether the students satisfy their attendance criteria for payment of bursary, for registering
their enrolment on any subject in a completely modular system, for identifying students who may need support and for measuring
The data is collected in the simplest way possible - by a single swipe of a card from the student. Because the data is stored in
the PC as standard Database format, it can be easily imported into our colleges M.I.S. System.
JPS installed the Sentinel e-registration Electronic Registration System in September 1993.
Since that time our relationship with the company has been excellent, they have responded to our needs quickly and
The system has brought many benefits to the school and the least of which is the ability to locate staff and students within
Swipe card registration – from their web site.
The Sentinel e-registration system
Sentinel is an electronic registration and access control system for all Schools, Colleges, and Universities.
It uses cards to register both pupil and lecturer either lesson by lesson or morning and afternoon.
The technology used ensures total data integrity, and every card swipe is recorded in real time, allowing
for up to the second data on absences and locations of students.
Alongside all DfES reports Sentinel efficiently produces many other attendance summaries including
attendance by teacher, attendance by subject, after school clubs, and out of class.
Sentinel in operation
Students register by swiping their personalised ID card through a reader unit, within the classroom, under
The period commences when the teacher or lecturer swipes their card. Any student arriving subsequently
is recorded as late. At the end of the period only the teacher swipes which automatically logs out all
students. This procedure is repeated for each teaching period. Students are encouraged to record
temporary absence from class by swiping out and back in upon their return.
The Sentinel System can be supplied for the whole school or college, or part of. Your establishment can
start with a single year or tutor group system and expand to cover the rest of the premises at a later date,
dependent on your requirements.
The largest currently running network consists of 187 card readers spread on a 30 acre site. There are 13
teaching blocks that serve over 2000 pupils and nearly 200 staff. Over the last 10 years each of the 6
daily registration periods have taken less than 2 minutes to complete.
The Sentinel administrator has password capability to fully manage the system on the school network.
The system is fully customisable to meet any individual school’s needs. With the Sentinel database
accessible on the school network, every user can access the data with full to minimal capability
dependant on password control.
easy to use
The training needed to use Sentinel effectively is minimal, because the system is so user friendly the only
requirement for training is a one day course. Following this our software engineers are on hand to help
with any queries or problems, and provide comprehensive advice.
Our online support pages provide guidance on commonly asked questions, lists walkthroughs, and holds
help files. The support forum also allows current customers to share experiences, give tips on using the
system, and ask the support staff specific questions.
Where's school, sonny?
Absenteeism is getting out of control, so what can schools do? Phil Revell opts for the swipe-card route
Tuesday June 11, 2002
The government is worried about truancy, and so it ought to be. One million children a year bunk off from
school, 50,000 a day. In primary schools, the average time missed per absent pupil adds up to five days
over the year. For secondary schools, it's 10 days.
All the evidence indicates that truancy is linked to educational failure and crime. When children are out of
school they aren't learning and, for a minority, taking an afternoon off is the first step towards serious
So, apart from hand-wringing, what's to be done? The answer is a surprising amount and the most
successful solutions have ICT at the core. The main weapon is electronic registration. Trials have shown
that electronic systems can cut truancy by 10 per cent and a significant chunk of the £250m the
government is throwing at the problem is going to be spent on registration systems that can track a pupil
for every lesson of the day.
Collating the information in a paper register is an arduous task that few large schools try to do more than
once a week. Yet the evidence shows that teachers need to react to absences on the same day if they
are to have any effect. Electronic systems typically deliver an absentee report ten minutes after morning
registration, and most allow the register to be updated through the day.
"The biggest impact was on internal truancy," said Frank Briggs, deputy head at the John Port School in
Derbyshire. The school fitted a swipe-card electronic registration system eight years ago. With 2,000
pupils John Port is one of the biggest secondaries in the UK. There are 13 buildings on a huge site with a
"Kids were turning up, getting their mark and disappearing," said Briggs. "The swipe cards had a dramatic
impact on that."
Radun Systems used John Port as a pilot, fitting 95 swipe readers and cabling the school - at a cost of
around £25,000. The main concerns about swipe cards are the vulnerability of the readers - to chewing
gum and super glue - alongside problems caused by lost of forgotten cards.
"But we have had just one reader damaged in eight years," says Briggs.
"And currently 98.5% of the kids are remembering to bring their cards every day."
Alternative electronic systems include bar code readers, optical mark readers and radio systems. Around
20% of schools have electronic registration and the market leader is Bromcom, which supplies a radio
system based on a personal digital assistant - an electronic register. Seven hundred schools have bought
Bromcom's electronic register is an A5-sized computer that connects directly by radio to a PC in the
school office. The teacher keys in a personalised pin code, calls up the class list and takes the register.
When the names have been called the teacher presses the "send" button, closes the folder and gets on
The advantages of the Bromcom system lie in the fact that the teacher retains control over the process.
The disadvantages are in cost, reliability and flexibility. Radio systems can't be used for access control,
cashless catering or any of the other uses of the versatile swipe card. And some schools have
encountered communication problems when 40 or 50 tutors are trying to download registration data at the
Whatever the system, it is only as good as the management follow-up - a point emphasised by Jean Else
at Whalley Range High School in Manchester. The school uses Bromcom, and Else welcomes the up-to-
date in formation the system delivers.
"The figures are at your fingertips," she said. "But it's the quality of monitoring that is the key."
Whalley Range appointed a pastoral manager to chase attendance at a time when anything up to 400
children a day were missing school. "Recently, if we have 50 off, I'm concerned," said Else.
The school was featured in an Ofsted report into attendance and behaviour. Inspectors found that action
to improve attendance and behaviour was most effective in those schools that linked it to efforts to
improve attitudes to learning and attainment.
"Their key characteristic is the consistency with which staff, having agreed a policy, apply it," they said.
Else reinforces that message and goes on to stress that, once the kids are attending again, it's vital to
To that end Whalley Range runs a lunchtime radio station, sport, music, a breakfast club with morning TV,
step aerobics, ICT sessions.
"We keep the computers on at lunchtime and allow the kids full access," she said. "It's got to be a school
that the kids want to come to. Nobody ever mentions that."
Meanwhile, children at Chafford Hundred campus have been using their swipe cards for less than a year.
The brand new school in Thurrock, almost next door to the Lakeside shopping centre, demonstrates how
versatile the cards are.
Chafford Hundred uses an electronic registration system (from EasyTrace), but the cards are also used
for pupils' lockers. Children use laptops, which need to be securely stored and charged overnight. The
lockers have a built-in swipe-reader and charging system. The school also uses swipe cards to restrict
access to certain parts of the building, for cashless catering in the school's canteen and even for print
Pupils who want a hard copy of their work press "print", then take their swipe cards to a central laser
printer. This has cut down paper wastage and saved the school a fortune in room printers and ink
cartridges. There's the potential for children to have a print "allowance" - putting them firmly in charge of
the process and encouraging further savings.