St Davids Peninsula 3-16 Church in Wales VA School

YPDVA Mobile Phone Policy goes Viral

The policy has improved attendance, behaviour and learning and reduced bullying, the school says pupils are being told to hand in their phones at the start of the school day and collect them when they leave. Some parents “were not happy” but banning phones from lessons and break times has improved almost everything, said headteacher Rachael Thomas.

Lessons and break times at Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi in St David’s, Pembrokeshire are no longer disrupted by texting or worse, like sexting or sharing inappropriate chats and images. At the end of the first term under the new no-phone policy she said exclusions and bullying at the Church in Wales all-age school are also down.

The school’s police liaison officer reported a 75% improvement in phone-related issues she had to deal with. Attendance, punctuality and behaviour and have improved in a few short months and there has been a “significant improvement in pupil engagement in learning,” said Mrs Thomas.

She admitted the policy had not been popular but said some children didn’t always realise how toxic their phone use is. The school day has also been tweaked, shaving time off breaks and the last lesson to give pupils time to hand in and collect their mobiles at the start and end of the day.

Mrs Thomas was speaking after a fellow head in Powys described the transformation in his school since a mobile phone ban there a year ago — you can read more about that here. Their comments come as headteachers in England are being told to ban pupils from using mobile phones during the entire school day under new government guidance.

There, the Department for Education wants children to be barred from using devices on breaks as well as in class. England’s education secretary Gillian Keegan announced the plans at the Conservative Party conference and the new guidance will be issued “shortly” but a specific date has not been announced.

While there is no such ruling from the Welsh Government, more and more schools are taking their own action curbing or banning phone use. Mrs Thomas admitted not all parents were happy to be told they couldn’t reach their children by phone during the school day, but said many were supportive of the new rules at her school.

One parent told the school her daughter had learned to use her phone more sensibly since not being allowed to take it to lessons: “Thank you for taking control of an issue which needs it. My daughter is learning the value of the time she has in school and has learnt to separate school time from her phone time, I’m extremely grateful for this.”

Another parent said: “This has had a transformative impact on my daughter. Thank you for being bold enough to introduce it.” Others said their children reported children being more sociable now without their phones.

Staff were also grateful and had noticed a huge change, said Mrs Thomas. One commented: “I’ve not had to investigate a single incident of inappropriate photos” while another reported a “dramatic decrease in social media and group chat related unkindness and safeguarding – almost at zero”.

Pupils’ social and communication have improved noticeably with “one of the most common daily battles/barriers” to learning removed, another said. The new phone policy came after a consultation with parents, staff, governors and pupils.

Mrs Thomas said it was not an outright ban on phones at the 600-pupil school which takes children up to age 16: “It’s not a ban as they bring their phones into school but then hand them in – we have changed the school day to accommodate this. Pupils were spending so much time on their phones. We were dealing with sexting and texting and people texting each other during lessons to leave and meet in the toilets. It meant some were not fully engaging in learning. It got so bad that last summer we decided sometimes adults must make decisions for children, so we consulted.”

Pupils’ phones are locked in a cupboard and then handed back at the end of the day. So far only one phone has been damaged during the process and only one pupil has taken the wrong phone back.

Mrs Thomas said: “Staff don’t have pupils reaching for their phones in lessons. Some children were leaving lessons to go to the toilet to talk to each other during lessons. Our maths department says children use scientific calculators and not their phones for calculations now, so outcomes have improved.”

Pupils are also talking to each other more, they are out playing and engaging more with their friends: “There are less behavioural incidents. Our police liaison officer used to be in every week to deal with things and says there is a 75% improvement in that. The amount of cyber bullying and sexting has dropped and tends to be out of school. We had three or four instances of this a day before September when the new mobile phone policy was introduced. We had TikToks being made in school and children would share pictures or Whatsapps which might be rude or inappropriate with some name-calling or nasty conversations or images. The disruption to learning was huge and it has been a massive improvement since we changed the policy. Pupils were not happy but a lot of them are happier. Some don’t recognise how toxic phones can be and this has had most impact on years 10 and 11.”

Mrs Thomas said it was hard to assess whether exam results would improve, but said she had no doubt that left with their phones in classes pupils’ acadmic outcomes “would be worse”.

“My staff have been so grateful and learning has improved . There is no disruption from phones in lessons and that disruption was significant before,” the headteacher said.

The new mobile phone policy and all other school policies can be viewed on the link below:

YPDVA School Policies

Credit – Article content taken from Abbie Wightwick Education Editor – WalesOnline