Mobile phones in the classroom should be off limits to children - Susan Dalgety

Phones in the classroom are a big problem for both teachers and their pupils, says Susan DalgetyPhones in the classroom are a big problem for both teachers and their pupils, says Susan Dalgety
Phones in the classroom are a big problem for both teachers and their pupils, says Susan Dalgety
Imagine trying to teach trigonometry to a room full of 14-year-olds who have one eye on Tik Tok and the other on the whiteboard.

Teachers today have so much more to contend with than mine did, back when telephones were still in a red phone box.

We used to pass the occasional note under the desk to each other, but woe betide anyone who was caught in the act.

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Depending on whether it was Mrs Sharpe, the maths teacher, or Mr Lindsey, who taught physics, the punishment could range from an ear-wigging to the belt.

But with nearly everyone over the age of 12 owning a mobile phone – 97 per cent according to Ofcom – phones in the classroom are a big problem for both teachers and their pupils.

Last year, Unesco called for smartphones to be banned in schools as there is strong evidence that their use is linked to reduced educational performance and can affect a youngster’s wellbeing.

There is also a host of research that shows phones can lead to online bullying and disruption in class.

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In February, the UK government introduced guidelines to limit the use of mobile phones in English schools and similar restrictions are in place in France, Italy and Portugal.

So it’s not surprising that there has been a call by an Edinburgh councillor to consider how the city can control pupils using smartphones at their desk – or in the case of my grandson, under his desk.

Tory councillor Christopher Cowdy, who represents the Fountainbridge/ Craiglockhart ward, failed to persuade his council colleagues to impose a city-wide ban.

At the recent full council meeting, the majority of councillors decided to wait for the Scottish Government to publish its own national guidelines before making a decision about Edinburgh’s schools.

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Councillor Cowdy pointed out that some city schools have already introduced a ban or restricted the use of phones, and that a strong council policy was required to support teachers.

He’s right. There is no timetable for the Scottish Government’s policy – it could be next month or next year. In the meantime, children’s education will continue to suffer and it is often the most vulnerable students who are worst affected.

The city’s education chief, Cllr Joan Griffiths, says there are “pros and cons” to a ban, and stresses that before any decision is taken to restrict phones in classrooms, students must be consulted.

Democracy is all very well, but sometimes adults have to make difficult decisions on behalf of children. There should be no smartphones allowed in class, any class.

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Students have plenty of digital devices at school, including tablets and desktop computers, so the only reason they would want to use their personal smartphone is to access content that is not on the national curriculum.

There can be exceptions made for those who need their phone to receive medical alerts – but this will be a very limited number. For everyone else, phones in the classroom should be off limits.

The vast majority of teachers say that the misuse of phones has an impact on student behaviour and learning.

Call me old fashioned, but I think their expert opinion carries more weight than teenagers hooked on Instagram.

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