Texts encourage students to complete their courses

A text scheme aimed at driving down truancy could be rolled out on a much wider scale, after its trial proved successful.

Downing Street sought a way of encouraging pupils in further education to attend all their lectures and seminars, without resorting to force or cajolement. Eventually it was decided that text messages sent at the start of a new term would be the best way to go, mentioning how the lecturers are looking forward to seeing their students again and reminding them to plan journeys ahead of time.

Among those getting the best results were new recruits to the police force, particularly ethnic minority students. After being sent text messages that invited them to give thought to what the job would mean to them, the number of trainees completing their assessments rose by 50 per cent.

The scheme came from the same department that had achieved great success in getting DVLA website users to sign up for organ donation and managed to get taxes from Britain’s richest returned on time.

Now, with these successes mounting up, it is thought that gentle SMS reminders could be used elsewhere. The trials may even give private companies inspiration for what they could achieve by using the same techniques.

Unit head at Downing Street’s Behavioural Insights Team, Dave Halpern, told thedrum.com: “Civil servants are sceptical because they have seen so many ideas come and go.

“However, they have seen what can be achieved by making small changes and using simple techniques and now several departments have their own ‘nudge’ unit, including HMRC.”