Should mobiles be allowed in classrooms?

A study by the London School of Economics into the impact of mobile phones on student performance found that test results improved in schools where mobile phones were banned. More than 90% of teenagers own a mobile phone and although there is no current UK government policy relating to mobile phone use at schools, it is up to the individual school to set its own restrictions.  However smart phones are also mini computers and many schools utilise students’ mobile devices in their classrooms during lessons.  With an ongoing debate on the subject what do our panel think?

Shaun McInerney, principal – The Studio

Learning happens best when we are using all the resources we have – our senses; our emotions; our brains; and the devices that help us harness and organise the knowledge we need to deepen our understanding. Once upon a time schools used old technology: quill and parchment; chalk and blackboards; overhead projectors! Now, it is mobile devices that allow our students to access the latest research, data, ‘how to’ guides and powerful imagery that can bring even the driest GCSE topics alive. Misusing technology is bound to impede student learning so we need to ensure students use the technology at their disposal responsibly, both inside and outside school.

Tim Alderman, headteacher – St Julie’s Catholic High School

There are many positive attributes to mobile phones and they do come with many excellent features. However, at St Julie’s, I do not allow students to have phones switched on or visible through the day.
I actually think there is very good guidance on the use of mobile phones in schools. Ofsted state ‘‘Teachers should plan lessons very effectively, making maximum use of lesson time and coordinating lesson resources well.’’ With so many distractions such as games and social media, not to mention the plethora of platforms and software on these different phones, the risk of failure is great.  Schools have excellent ICT facilities these days and to rely on a vast array of phones in a lesson is not good planning. Not to mention the pressure it puts on the several children in the class who do not have smart phones, or do but their features are not enabled.
However, the greater concern is still around inappropriate use of mobile phones in schools. Cyber bullying, broadcasting inappropriate messages to many others, distribution of obscene images, threats of violence, grooming, the list is extensive. As representative for Secondary Schools on the Liverpool Safeguarding Children Board I am acutely aware of how phones are used to target vulnerable children, and incidents of child sexual exploitation and cyber bullying are well documented.
Phones are not necessary in school. Providing a safe and secure environment is.

Stephen Brierley,  principal – St Margaret’s Church of England Academy

Mobile technology has significant implications in many areas of life, not least education; at St Margaret’s we recognise that the world for which we are preparing our young people today is very different from the world for which we teachers were prepared!  Whilst there are undoubtedly many opportunities for creative teachers to harness mobile technology in their teaching, there are also, sadly, equally many opportunities for such technology to be misused in a school setting: I am sure every headteacher will have dealt with more than one case of ‘cyber-bullying’ in their time.  That is why most headteachers will, rightly in our opinion, forbid (or at least limit) the use of mobile ’phones in school – as is the case here.  But that doesn’t mean we can ignore the impact mobile technology will have on our young people’s lives.  Here at St Margaret’s we work hard to educate our learners in the right and wrong way to use technology; through our Christian values, we help each learner develop their moral compass, so that each individual is equipped for life in an increasingly uncertain, and rapidly-changing, world.

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