Mobile phones can help pupils learn in the classroom and should not be banned or “demonised”, a teaching chief has said.
Jean Prescott, the newly-elected president of the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA), representing the heads of independent girls’ schools, said phone use in classrooms gave significant benefits such as research and taking photos of homework tasks.
Ms Prescott, head of independent Portsmouth High School, said that while she allows mobiles in classrooms they are banned in the dining hall and social areas of her school.
The GSA represents four schools in Scotland including Kilgraston School in Bridge of Earn, Perthshire, which last month recorded its best exam results in five years after imposing a mobile phone ban on pupils in 2018 and reported pupils’ concentration improved.
A number of other schools north of the Border have noted similar outcomes including Glenalmond College, also in Perthshire.
Ms Prescott said: “We demonise mobile phones.
“This is certainly an aspect of mobile phones that is destructive, for example excessive social media use, promoting celebrity culture and gaming.
“But there are huge positives. Communication is easier and better for a start.
“It’s our responsibility in schools to show the positive aspects of having a mobile phone, what it is really for and overcoming the negatives.”
Ms Prescott made her comments while discussing how to prepare young people for a more globally-connected future.
However, half of parents have said they would support a ban on mobile devices in classrooms.
While some schools insist pupils place their phone face-down on top of desks, teachers have reported that a number of pupils put an old phone on their desk but switch the SIM card to their current phone in order to text and send messages on WhatsApp.
Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, the country’s largest teaching union, said mobile devices should be switched off during class time unless given permission by teachers for use in lessons.
“The EIS believes schools should have clear enforceable guidance about the use of mobile phones by pupils.
“Generally speaking, all mobile devices should be switched off during class time, unless teachers have given approval for smartphones to be used for educational purposes. Many schools make use of mobile technology to support learning, so this must be factored in to school policy on mobile phone use.
“The EIS is not convinced a blanket banning of all mobile phones is a practical approach but students do need to learn about appropriate use.”