Scottish pupils say wellbeing has improved since school mobile classroom ban

One teacher said her pupils have been more focused since the ban.

Ryan McDougall
Sunday 17 December 2023 00:01 GMT
A group of Gordonstoun students walk through the school grounds. (Gordonstoun/PA)
A group of Gordonstoun students walk through the school grounds. (Gordonstoun/PA)

Pupils from a Scottish school have said their wellbeing has improved since a mobile phone ban was introduced in their classrooms.

Gordonstoun School in Elgin, Moray, made the decision to ban phones in the classroom three months ago, and both pupils and staff have said it has led to a significant change in culture among pupils.

The independent boarding school previously introduced a limit on the usage of mobile phones on the campus in 2017.

Following a consultation, students were told in September to leave their phones in their boarding houses during the school day and hand them to staff overnight.

Sixth year pupils are exempt from the rule and may keep their phones at all times, though they are still required to switch them off in class.

It comes as education secretary Jenny Gilruth earlier this week gave her support to headteachers who want to ban mobile phones in the classroom.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa)’s latest figures showed around one third of pupils admit their phones distract them while in class.

Year 13 pupil Ruby Giddy said: “My general wellbeing has improved since the new policy has been introduced.

“There is a more positive atmosphere on the school campus because of the restrictions on mobiles in social spaces.

“There is less focus on our online presence and more on real life.

“The new policy is an improvement for everyone in school, as it allows everyone to have more in depth conversations as opposed to speaking to someone while looking at a phone.

“I feel like I do focus more during my lessons as my phone was quite a large distraction before. I now find myself paying more attention in my lessons, which is only beneficial to me and my studies.

“Overall, I think this is positively impacting on everyone’s work and grades.”

Fellow year 13 pupil Daniella Fagbemi said: “Removing the constant interruption of beeps and bleeps from phones has prompted a considerable shift in my relationships around the school campus, as I’m now spending more time talking to my friends.

“Ensuring that no one has access to a phone throughout the day means that no one feels they are missing out on any important social activity online.

“The new mobile phone policy has allowed me to reevaluate the impact that social media has had on my wellbeing and being able to take the time to disconnect throughout the school day has encouraged me to continue this trend during my free time.

“Removing the distraction of my phone means I’m also using my free time more productively.”

The revised policy has also been welcomed by teaching staff, who have noticed a marked improvement in student performance.

Daniel McLean, a house parent at Gordonstoun supporting pastoral care for the students, said removing phones from classrooms “has been a major step change” for many of the students.

He added: “But what I’m seeing now is much happier and socially confident children no longer being distracted by the Apps and constant updates on their phones.

“They are being forced to stop and think and appreciate the value of silence, with many now performing better in the classroom particularly with their attention to detail.”

Stephanie Ottens, a German and French teacher at the school, said students have “exhibited a heightened focus during lessons”.

She said: “This increased concentration has led to improved academic performance and a noticeable reduction in signs of anxiety when they are separated from their electronic devices.”

Lisa Kerr, principal of Gordonstoun, added: “Restricting the use of mobiles phones has transformed life and learning at Gordonstoun, with students spending quality time with each other rather than scrolling through their phones.

“Mealtimes have become more sociable, and students are released from the temptation and pressure to check constant updates on Apps.

“We now have happier students more interested in real not virtual relationships. They feel free, they can focus on their work and their overall wellbeing has improved.

“Since we first introduced limits in 2017, classroom concentration has improved and, with it, exam results.

Technology has a vital place in our classrooms as a learning tool but, as the recent Pisa report highlighted, mobile phones can be a distraction not just to the user but also those around them.

“Some may argue the genie is out of the bottle and it’s too late to bring in restrictions, but it’s never too late to protect our children from what is effectively an addiction to the regular dopamine mini hits from their phones.

“At the heart of this is giving them back the gift of childhood and supporting them to achieve their full potential.”

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