Page 22 - Independent Schools Magazine
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“Every pastoral issue... was eventually tracked back to some form of misuse of mobile phones.”
Mobile phones: the voice of reason calling
There is so much being discussed about the merits or otherwise of students having mobile phones in school. Should such technology be embraced
as ‘the future’. Should mobile phones be banned completely from the school site? Or do we  nd a happy medium? Questions addressed by Steve Gardner, Head of Lower School at King Edward’s Witley, Surrey.
I don’t think there is a right solution and mobile phone misuse is always going to occur. So, what should we do?
We use common sense. That’s what we do. I run the Lower School at King Edward’s Witley. We are a co-educational, independent day and boarding school for 11-18 year olds. In my  rst term leading Queen Mary House (the Lower School Boarding and Day house), every pastoral issue that I had to deal with was eventually tracked back to some form of misuse of mobile phones. So what did I do? I reacted (yes, you can’t always predict and be proactive). With a unanimous agreement from my colleagues and also the parents of the young people in my care (you’ve got to love SurveyMonkey!), we rewrote the mobile phone policy and clamped down on the possible usage during the school day. In fact, we went even further than this by limiting the amount of time that our boarders could use their phones to a mere 50 minutes per day, after school. The result? A complete eradication of pastoral issues starting from poor and naive use of social media.
What was most striking was that during the  rst week of the ‘ban’,
our young people really struggled to know what to do in their spare time. They resorted to animalistic- type behaviour. Nothing serious but it was very clear that they had forgotten how to ‘play’. Absolutely baf ing and one hundred percent interesting. What came out of
this was that we were instantly reminded that the young people in our care were just that - YOUNG PEOPLE. They have had technology thrust at them at such a young age and it turns out that they are exceptionally talented at using it. What they do not have, however, is the maturity to handle (and sometimes understand) the responsibilities and dangers that come with such a weapon.
Like every other school in the country, we educate our pupils, parents and staff on appropriate mobile phone protocol – covering acceptable use, cyber-bullying, keeping yourself safe online Etc. And this is all incredibly important and a massive part of our duty
of care. However, we cannot forget, that the ever-changing world is forcing our students
to act beyond their years, in so many ways. Personally, I would have hated growing up as an 11-year old in the current day. Faced with so many e-dangers, a constant demand to be better and
a persistent reminder, of what we should look like, how we should behave and what we should aspire to be. In fact, I decided to run a series of workshops with
my young people, pointing out
to them that the world often forces utterly inaccurate messages their way. They were stunned
by what they were seeing – you only need to watch a couple of TV adverts to understand what I mean (L’Oreal, featuring Cheryl Cole; Lynx with its Angels Will Fall campaign). Utterly immoral and false.
So, what action do we need to take? A partial ban on mobile technology in the early years of Senior School life? Yes. Continued and vamped up education from 11-18? De nitely. A staggered introduction of mobile phones
on the school site, during the working day? Absolutely – none of us are naive enough to think that mobile technology does not have a place in the classroom but I think we are all bored at having to tell our students to remove their headphones as they wander between lessons. I often get told by my colleagues that the Lower School students can be quite noisy as they move from A to B. A potentially valid criticism – but one that I am happy about. These
are the pupils that are conversing with each other using eye contact and actually talking – not tap- tapping on a screen. Noise from my young charges is (largely) a good thing.
Someone once said to me “you’ll never solve this problem – they can’t live without them”. I beg to differ Sir, the evidence is
here. After the initial week of grumbles from our students, not a complaint has been heard. In fact, I’d go as far to say that we have removed a massive burden from our young students’ shoulders. They are happy, have learnt to ‘play’ again and are thriving in their academic life too – and they are certainly not suffering from reduced mobile phone technology time.
Surely it is a School’s responsibility to provide guidance to its pupils regarding the need for appropriate and restricted access to cutting-edge mobile phone technology? Isn’t this just another life vital lesson that our children deserve to be taught?
Pupils star in national campaign to combat digital addiction
Pupils from Reigate Grammar School star in a video which forms part of new classroom resources to
help children to use digital devices responsibly.
The resources underpinning the campaign, by the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) and Digital Awareness, will be shared with every senior school in the country.
Seventeen-year-old Goya Verity who plays the  lm’s lead character said: ‘Being a part of the campaign has been really eye
opening and made me realise that I, along with my generation, are victims of this addiction in some way or another.’
Goya said she was now changing her own digital habits for the better: ‘This  lm’s messsage reached out to me and I hope it reaches out to others worldwide.
See the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9uydDEez3c
‘People just need to be willing to change, to just take a step back and see the negative effects of technology addiction on all aspects of life, be it at home or at work.
Goya also said that adults too often set a bad example: ‘Speaking from my own experience, I feel that adults are not setting good enough role models for their children to follow when it comes to using technology intelligently, so I hope that this  lm will reach out to adults as well as teens.’
Reigate Grammar School Head Shaun Fenton said: ‘I’m extremely proud
of all those who took part in the  lm. All those appearing – including the mum – are from RGS. Digital addiction is a really vital issue. We know that excessive use of digital technology can disturb sleep, affect concentration and disrupt school work. We will be using the momentum created by
the  lm to work with our students to ensure they use digital devices appropriately and are able to “switch off”.’
22 Independent Schools Magazine
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