At the start of September, I wrote my post ‘No more mobiles’ about why we took the decision to ban mobile phones from school. There were several reasons, the foremost being the level of distraction they created. That original post generated quite a bit of interest, so this is my first update on how our decision is going, based on the first week back at school.
On the first day back everything went very smoothly. We had made the decision to give students warnings and literally only a handful them needed a reminder about having their phone out, or headphones round their neck. All responded straight away, a couple saying it was news to them. Several students proffered their phones for safe-keeping at reception in the morning but mostly there was no phone in evidence. It’s likely that most had decided to keep their phone off and in their bag. I only spotted one student at lunchtime with their head almost inside their bag – “I’m just putting it in my bag.” The first day back usually goes smoothly though, doesn’t it?
The rest of the first week continued much the same way however. By Friday several staff reported that they had given reminders / warnings to students, but students had responded quickly and put their phone away. Colleagues also said that students were giving each other reminders not to have phones out.
What surprised me was the lack of complaint or questions from students. I had thought that the new policy wasn’t a change as far as lessons went, but at break and lunchtime, some students would might have difficulty adapting. This just didn’t happen. Apart from the few reminders I mentioned, phones weren’t in evidence in the cafeteria, indoor social area, playground or the field.
So what were students doing if they weren’t on their phones? Talking to each other, face to face, in groups, chatting, smiling, laughing! I also think there were more playing sport, skateboarding, etc. These are just casual observations – most pupils chatted in groups last year, with maybe one in four on a phone at the same time, more were outside playing but we had good weather last week. Colleagues report a ‘renewed focus’ among students, but then it was the first week of the year. We will need to see how things develop as the year progresses.
Did we have to confiscate any phones? Yes, six from five pupils, who did not respond to reminders (that’s about 0.4% of students). In my first post on this I listed four reasons for our decision to ban mobiles:
- Distraction, most likely to be those who had fallen behind their peers and could least afford it.
- The high proportion of behaviour incidents in school that centred on phone usage.
- Use of social media in bullying (and other interpersonal nastiness).
- Thankfully much less frequent and involving very small numbers of pupils, the use of mobile phones in the involvement of children, by older peers and adults in substance abuse, crime, and CSE.
In all five cases, confiscation was because of 1 – distraction from getting to a lesson on time – moved to 2 by the students’ choice to ignore a warning. In a couple of cases there may be a connection to 4, readers will appreciate that I cannot write more on that.
This may or may not turn out to be representative of the year ahead, we shall see. I aim to write another update later in the autumn term. As always, your comments are very welcome.