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Hanging up the phone during the school day has been ‘‘transformational’’ for three Waitaki secondary schools.

In recent years, East Otago High School, and Waitaki Boys’ and Waitaki Girls’ High Schools have all introduced mobile phone bans.

Last year, Waitaki Girls’ introduced a ban for year 9 to 11 pupils, while allowing year 12 and 13 pupils to use phones during breaks.

Principal Liz Koni said the results of the ban had been ‘‘overwhelmingly positive’’.

‘‘The benefit of no phones at school have been tremendous,’’ Mrs Koni said.

‘‘We are pleased to see that our NCEA results for 2021 have improved on the already impressive results of 2020.’’

There were fewer distractions in the classroom, making it a more focused learning environment.

During breaks, pupils were engaging more with one another, rather than with their phones, and even seniors who were allowed their phones often chose not to.

‘‘The cellphone free expectation has certainly helped build a more positive school environment which promotes and values learning experiences, communication skills, face-to-face relationships and improved sense of belonging and overall wellbeing for our young women.’’

Waitaki Boys’ introduced an entire school ban in 2020, and rector Darryl Paterson said it had been ‘‘transformational’’.

‘‘Before the ban, most boys would be on their devices at interval or lunchtime and now most boys are either talking to each other or involved in activities and games,’’ Mr Paterson said.

The feedback from the community had been positive.

In Mr Paterson’s 70 interviews for incoming pupils last year, all parents were ‘‘extremely supportive’’ of the policy.

Feedback from pupils was they would prefer tobe allowed phones, but they understood the reason for the ban.

‘‘We do intend to survey the boys later this year to get more formal feedback.’’

East Otago High School introduced a ban in 2018. It was relaxed in 2020, then reinstated for the entire school last year.

Principal Marcus Cooper said staff found pupils were more engaged and they spent less time managing the misuse of cellphones.

The ban allowed pupils to bring phones to school, as many needed them to organise after school transport, and at breaks.

‘‘We will be watching with interest the policies from other schools that have banned cellphones from break times to see if there are other benefits we may gain,’’ Mr Cooper said.