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To text, or not to text in the classroom ...?

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  • How much potential do today’s mobile phones have to disrupt lessons in school?
  • Read the opinions of three local head teachers below
  • Should mobiles be banned in schools? Take part in our poll

MOBILE phones in schools: a smart idea, or a head teacher's headache?

With the latest iPhone or Samsung in hand, pupils have the power to access a wealth of educational material to help shape and inform their studies.

On a more practical level, the devices enable a quick text or call to mum or dad to sort out changes to after school pick-up times.

However, with an ever-increasing range of apps and social media temptations at the touch of a button, there is a world of technological distractions to disrupt concentration in the classroom.

And it's not just an issue affecting the few, because it is estimated that 90 per cent of UK students now own a mobile phone.

A recent study into the use of the devices in schools suggested that completely banning mobile phones can significantly boost children's academic performance.

In fact, according to academics at the London School of Economics, the effect of banning mobile phones from school premises adds up to the equivalent of an extra week's schooling across the academic year.

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The study, named 'Ill Communication: The Impact of Mobile Phones on Student Performance', found that after schools banned mobile phones, the test scores of 16-year-olds improved by more than six per cent.

It was also found that the lowest-achieving students gained more than twice as much as average students, and that the ban had a more positive impact on students with special education needs and those from less privileged backgrounds eligible for free school meals.

In the UK, more and more schools now do not allow phones on school premises; others now require them to be handed in at the beginning of the day.

But what is the practice in Jersey secondaries?

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Phil Slater, Le Rocquier

'There's certainly a lot of debate about the advantages and disadvantages of mobile phones and tablets at the moment.

'At Le Rocquier we have a ban on the use of mobile phones, unless teachers specifically give students permission to use them for educational purposes.

'Students who are caught using them without the permission of the teacher will face a sanction.

'We also don't allow them to use their phones at break or lunchtime.

'The big problem is when students use their phones inappropriately and we have pictures taken of fights or other kinds of behaviour being placed on social media.

'We do encourage students to bring tablets to school, and a student can ask a teacher "Can I use my phone to do this?", for example using a stop watch for experiments.

'That can be really useful.

'Our policy might change in the future.

'It's a bit like when watches first came out and people were suggesting banning them from classrooms because they would be a distraction and students would use them to trick teachers to end classes early!

'I do think that the issue is a minefield and we need to tread carefully.'

John McGuinness, Grainville

'My personal view is that mobile phones in schools are not appropriate.

'In terms of sorting out travel arrangements with their parents, they can be very useful, but letting students use phones does nothing but create more challenges for teachers.

'There's so much personal data and students will always have a tendency just to text their mates.

'At Grainville, we do not allow students to use their phones.

'If they are caught with them, they are asked to put them away, and if it happens again, they are confiscated.

'Fortunately, we don't have a huge number of phones handed in by teachers.

'I am all for students using technology, but just on a screen that is useful for learning.

'Phones are too small to be of any great help for educational purposes, but I am in support of any device that has a screen big enough to have an electronic pen – an iPad or one of the other tablets, for example.'

Dave Roworth, Haute Vallée

'Mobile phones are a big part of the modern world and students need them to make contact before and after school.

'We allow pupils to use their phones at lunchtime and break, but only for games and music, not for text messages or for social media.

'Ultimately, I think it is about finding the right balance.

'Students are not expected to use the phones in class, and if they do, teachers will confiscate them.

'I think that on the whole, students respect the fact that they are allowed to use their phones at break and lunch, so they are not used in class.

'As a new head teacher, if I find that students are taking advantage, it might be that as a school we change what we currently have in place.

'As soon as it becomes a distraction and a problem for teachers, we will look at ways to manage that.

'I think it's very important to give our students the trust, though.'

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