Mobile phones are useful in classroom, say private heads

The Times, 31.08.05, banning mobile phones in schools is pointless and shows a luddite attitude to technology, leading independent head teachers say. HMC Heads Will Phelan, headmaster, Stamford Endowed Schools John Moule, Warden, Radley College and Andrew Halls, head, King's College School, Wimbledon are quoted.

They said that children should instead be harnessing the power of smartphones in the classroom.

Tom Bennett, the government’s behaviour adviser, told The Times this month that allowing phones in schools was akin to giving children a game, a camera and a television while they tried to learn. Sir Michael Wilshaw, the Ofsted chief inspector, has also called on heads to ban phones in class.

He told The Daily Telegraph that “any head teacher worth his or her salt” would do so. Many head teachers agree and brand them a distraction that leaves pupils exposed to anonymous bullying, threats and harassment, and the constant temptation to check social media.

However, several schools — mostly independent — are encouraging pupils to bring their phones into school and even the classroom.

Mobile phone “hot spots” have been created at Stamford School, a boys’ independent school in Lincolnshire, to encourage pupils to question whether they need to use their device.

Will Phelan, its headmaster, said: “We changed the policy to allow mobile phones in school but boys have to go to ‘hot spots’ to use them. There are four of these zones dotted around the school and if boys want to use their tech, this is where they need to go. Having to make the effort to walk to the hot spot also makes them consider whether they really need to use their device at that time at all. They can use them in classes with the permission of the teacher.”

John Moule, warden at Radley School, said: “The use of mobile phones in lessons is encouraged if the teacher concerned wants them used. It can be extraordinarily helpful in a lesson to have several internet searches going on or for an experiment to be videoed.”

Andrew Halls, head of King’s College School in Wimbledon, said of smartphones: “There is no doubt they can be a huge distraction but, like nuclear weapons, they cannot be disinvented. As schools, we have to find ways to permit them but to control them. A screenshot of the board can be a useful revision tool.”

Children have been given old-fashioned mobile phones with no internet access at a girls’ boarding school. A mobile phone shop found a range of phones with no camera, apps or internet for Heathfield School in Ascot.

Girls aged 11 to 13 are given the phones, from which they can only ring or send text messages. They are allowed smartphones in Year 9 but have to hand them in before bed.

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