Shorter lunch breaks and a mobile phone ban could be “a game changer” for Waitaki Boys’ High School this year, rector Darryl Paterson says.
The Oamaru secondary school has reduced its traditional one-hour lunch break to 40 minutes to combat bad behaviour and next term will introduce a ban on mobile phones and other non-educational digital devices.
Pupils would be required to have their phones switched off and put away from 8.40am to 3.05pm, and if parents or caregivers needed to contact their son during the school day, they could leave a message at the office, Mr Paterson said.
Until now, pupils have been allowed to use phones at interval and lunch breaks and in class at the teacher’s discretion.
The Waitaki Boys’ High School board of trustees consulted with the school community and staff before ratifying the ban at a meeting last week.
“Over time we’ve noticed that the boys have become more and more inclined to go on their devices, particularly at interval and lunch time,” Mr Paterson said.
Most staff members believed mobile phones were having a negative impact on the school’s educational outcomes and several responses to the board’s community consultation last year echoed those sentiments, he said.
“All that came together and then our NCEA results came out and they were really disappointing.”
That led to “a great deal of reflection”, he said.
While the NCEA enrolment-based results system did not do Waitaki Boys’ “any favours”, Mr Paterson acknowledged there was a “large group of boys who have been underachieving”.
The main reasons for the ban were to remove distractions from the classrooms and improve educational outcomes.
“Our disappointing results have only reinforced the need for this.
“We just really want to treasure the school day, from 8.40am to 3.05pm, as the time for teaching and learning.
“That’s the main driver for it all, but we also think it’s going to make for better social relationships.”
“There’s a lot of literature around the addictive impact of [mobile phones], and then you’ve got the cyberbullying side of things as well,” he said.
“We’ve experienced that first hand here where some of our boys have been hurt by cyberbullying.
Feedback from pupils had been mixed and he expected some would struggle to go without their phones for six hours.
“Most of the boys I’ve spoken to are OK with it; they can see the bigger picture,” he said.
“We’ll be providing support [to them] .. because some boys are going to find it really, really difficult.”
An Oamaru Mail Facebook poll found that 60% of people thought pupils should not be allowed to use mobile phones at school.
WAITAKI GIRLS’ HIGH SCHOOL
Waitaki Girl’s High School is not considering introducing a “wholesale ban” on phones at school
“However, if we feel that such a policy is required we will do so,” acting principal Margaret Williams said.
At present, pupils are allowed to bring phones to school, but they have to be kept in school bags, not pockets, or in the designated “cell sitter” in each classroom.
They can not be used in the classroom unless “specifically asked for by the teacher”.
“We value and want to protect the school day as a time for students to engage in teaching and learning while also developing the self-confidence and resilience required to minimise dependency on social media,” Ms Williams said.
“We have asked our whanau to respect the school day as a time for teaching and learning and for them to contact the school office for urgent matters rather than texting or phoning the students.”
ST KEVIN’S COLLEGE
St Kevin’s College has a “student-generated” policy around mobile phone use.
“The students themselves have agreed that teachers may take phones off a student who is being distracted by it,” principal Paul Olsen said.
The policy also allowed some flexibility for pupils to use phones as learning resources in the classroom.
Each school had its own approach to issues and ways of creating safe environments for pupils, but St Kevin’s College was “not at all” looking to introduce a ban, Mr Olsen said..
“We have listened to our parent community and, while they agree that phones can be a distraction, they want us to allow students to have them as a tool for everyday life.
“Our community agrees that education around the correct use of phones is a better path than an outright ban as it prepares them for the world of work.”
EAST OTAGO HIGH SCHOOL
At East Otago High School, mobile phones are not allowed in the classroom.
“Mobile phones can be left in [a] box in each classroom (teacher’s discretion) or out of sight,” principal Marcus Cooper said.
The school would “regularly review” its policy, Mr Cooper said.
“Consistent messages from home and school are necessary for students to develop a healthy relationship with their phone,” he said.
“We would prefer that our students develop a responsible attitude to their phones and manage themselves in and outside of the classroom.”