The use of mobile phones in schools has been a topic of debate for some time.
Many schools have their own restrictions in place, and a number of surveys have found that significant numbers of parents would like to see even more in place.
A 2018 poll by Internet Matters found that 59% of parents did not think children should be allowed to use their mobiles during schooltime.
27% felt that phones should be allowed during breaks; however, with more than a third (34%) believing they should be permitted at lunch.
A more recent uSwitch poll in August found that nearly half (49%) of parents thought that mobile phones should be banned in schools altogether.
That is already the case in France, where a law banning pupils from using their phones during school hours came into force in 2018.
According to a prominent head teacher; however, these ‘demonised’ devices can actually be a force for good in the classroom.
Jane Prescott is head of the Portsmouth High School Girls’ Day School Trust and the incoming president of the Girls’ Schools Association.
She claimed there were a number of benefits to allowing phones in the classroom, including helping pupils to conduct research and take photos of their homework tasks
She also cited one girl at her school who had used her mobile phone to make a film about homelessness.
She said that mobile phones were ‘here to stay’, adding that it was no use for parents and teachers to ‘stick their head in the sand’.
Mrs Prescott said: “We demonise mobile phones.
“And there is certainly an aspect of mobile phones that is destructive – excessive social media use, being able to promote the celebrity culture, gaming on mobile phones.
“But there’s also a huge positive with them, in that communication has never been easier, or better.”
Mrs Prescott admitted that her own school environment and circumstances might be different from those of other heads and teachers.
Portsmouth High School GDST is a private school with annual fees reportedly going up to £15,000.
Mrs Prescott said she was fortunate to teach in an environment where the class sizes were relatively small, and the girls tended to be well-behaved.
Pupils at the school, who range from three to 18-years old, are banned from using their phones in the dining room as this is considered a ‘social space’ but are allowed to keep them in the classroom and use them when appropriate.
Mrs Prescott also said that outright bans might not be completely effective.
She said that she wasn’t certain that “banning mobile phones truly bans them, I think what they (pupils) do is go and use them in spaces that can’t be monitored, like the toilets”.
She added: “They’re not going to go away, we can’t be Luddite about it, we can’t stick our heads in the sand and hope that time will turn it back, because it won’t. They are here to stay.”