This term, Medina College introduced a ban on mobile phones on the school site and reports that the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Our thanks to parent, Wendy Varley, who gives her verdict on the decision. Ed
In the Spring of this year, Medina College headteacher, Richard Williams, asked parents what they thought about introducing a ban on mobile phones in school. He quoted research which shows that banning mobile phones from schools improves GCSE results. Even used outside of lessons there is the pressure of social media, which can bring up cyber-bullying issues.
One teacher at Medina ran an experiment in which he asked everyone in his class to put their mobile phones in a box at the start of a lesson (himself included). At the end they totted up how many notifications they’d received (from texts, social media and the like).
Between them it was over 200! Which shows how much potential for disruption there is.
Complete ban on phones
The school brought in a no phones in lessons rule last term and then, as pupils returned after the summer holidays, moved to a complete ban.
If a pupil is seen with a phone, it’s confiscated and not returned until the end of the school day. If it happens twice, a parent/carer has to collect the phone.
Staff expected resistance to the ban, but it hasn’t materialised, and they say it’s made the start of lessons, in particular, much easier, because there is no room for argument.
Parents are supportive. Students seem fine with it. (One teacher said they seem relieved!)
iPad became a curse
For me personally it’s a fascinating U-turn. When my son started at Medina in September 2013, an experiment was under way, in which iPad minis were issued to all new Year 7s, to use at school and home.
My son was a fan of the tablet (of course he was – free tech!), but as the year went on he became glued to it, and it became more of a curse than a blessing. If I caught him playing games on it, he always had the ready excuse that he would need it for homework “any minute now”.
Pros and cons of iPads
A list of pros and cons I jotted down at the time reveals that, on the plus side, he was adept at creating nice-looking presentations; but on the minus side, his handwriting suffered. And on the cons list I also wrote:
- Other students are chatting and playing football at break time, but Year 7s are lined up against the wall looking at their iPads. (Something he’s observed himself.)
- Already have a battle coaxing him away from video games at home. Don’t want his free time to be dominated by screens at school.
- Want him to join lunch clubs, and make friends…
Of course, this wasn’t confined to students who’d been issued with iPads; some of those bringing smart-phones into school had the same distractions.
So when he handed in his tablet before the summer holiday of 2014, it was a relief to me and, oddly enough, to him, too. Within 24 hours he looked back on the experience of having a school iPad as being (in his own words) “too immersive”.
Restocked the school library
The new head, Mr Williams, who took up post last September, had different ideas on the cost vs benefits of mobile technology. He didn’t reissue the iPads, and instead confined use of school computers and iPads to specific lessons, where teachers deemed them necessary. And now he and his team have not only introduced the ban on phones, but have refurbished and restocked the school library. With books.
My son likes the change and finds school a more sociable place.
Other parents in favour
This was a comment from a parent to the Medina College Parent Voice group back in May, when the school was consulting on introducing a mobile phone ban:
“I wanted to share my excitement at the prospect of mobile phones being banned … I have stopped my son bringing his phone since Christmas because I was shocked at how much use it was getting during the school day.
“He has tolerated this really well and we even use old-fashioned setting a time to meet for after school collection occasionally, without the need for ten texts to find each other. It’s a brilliant move. Well done, Medina College! Just need to ban sugar now!”
Another parent simply wrote:
“Yes! Yes! Yes!”
Wendy Varley is Chair of Medina College Parent Voice