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13 October 2018

United Kingdom: Eton Faces Backlash After Banning Mobile Phones in the Classroom

Eton faces backlash after banning mobile phones in the classroom 
by Camilla Turner, education editor, telegraph.co.uk, 12 October 2018

Simon Henderson, headmaster at the £40,000-a-year
school, wrote to parents at the start of the academic
year to announce the ban
Eton College is facing a backlash from teachers after banning students from using mobile phones in the classroom.

Simon Henderson, headmaster at the £40,000-a-year school, wrote to parents at the start of the academic year to announce the ban, which he said would be introduced as a trial.

But the move left some of its teachers “spitting” with anger, with one senior master criticising it as “Luddite” and “Amish”.

Joe Francis, an English teacher at Eton College, said the experimental ban caused some consternation among masters who see mobile phones as a useful teaching aid.

“There are some teachers who are absolutely spitting about it,” Mr Francis told The Daily Telegraph. “They tend to be the more techy teachers, maths and science people who think it is a bit Luddite and anti-progress.

“There will be people, older people particularly and humanities teachers, who applaud it. I sympathise with [them] but we have to get across this divide."

Earlier this week, the Education Secretary Damian Hinds said he supports any headteacher who chooses to ban mobile phones, saying that they get in the way of education.

But Mr Francis, who is developing a new kind of education model which will embrace the use of technology, said that mobile phones are an invaluable classroom resource.

“You have an instant, dictionary, calculator, encyclopedia…you have an amazing resource there,” he said. Schools which seek to ban mobile phones risk being seen as out of touch and “fuddy duddy” by youngsters, Mr Francis added.

The ban is one of a number of new initiatives being trialled by Eton College, which has set up a working group to consider boys’ use of mobile phones in school.

The school already confiscates phones from teenagers overnight, which Mr Henderson said is an attempt to prevent the “24/7” social media culture.

In a letter sent to parents last month, Mr Henderson explained that school intends to develop a strategy that "recognises the benefits of mobile technologies and educates boys in using these responsibly" but which also "protects boys from the downsides of over-use and from the dangers of mobile phone addiction”.

A spokesman for Eton College said: “Through the work of our Tony Little Centre for Innovation and Research in Learning we are developing our Digital Strategy and will be introducing a tablet device programme across the school in September 2019.

“Several pilot programmes are already running and impact is being evaluated by the Centre. Our Year 9s are required to hand their mobile devices in overnight. Several houses are piloting an extension of this policy into Year 10.

“In addition, we have just completed a short trial whereby boys are not allowed their phones with them during lesson time. The results of this trial will be evaluated in the coming weeks and will inform future policy.”

Eton College is the latest in a series of schools to crack down on mobile phone use among their pupils. Last year, the £39,000-a-year Brighton College started forcing students to hand in their mobile phones at the beginning of each day in an effort to wean them off their “addiction” to technology.

Students in year seven, eight and nine are now required to hand in their mobile phones at the beginning of the day to teachers who will lock it away, ready for collection when they are about the go home.

Students in year ten are allowed their phones, but must subscribe to three “detox” days a week where they hand it in, with year elevens having one “detox” day.

At Wimbledon High School, a fee-paying day school in south-west London, all children and parents are given a copy of the schools’ digital rules, one of which is “put your phone away at meals and leave your phone downstairs at bedtime - try and be screen free at least an hour before bed”.


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