School banned pupils’ phones from war memorial trip

The Cross of Sacrifice at Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Commission Memorial in Passchendaele, Belgium. Picture: Getty
The Cross of Sacrifice at Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Commission Memorial in Passchendaele, Belgium. Picture: Getty
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TEACHERS tried to ban teenagers from taking mobiles on a First World War battlefield trip.

Staff at St Thomas of Aquins insisted that phones had to be left at home because texting and social media would be too distracting for the youngsters.

But they performed a U-turn after a backlash – from parents.

A group of 40 pupils aged 14 to 18 will travel to Belgium and France in June to visit battle sites, war graves and attend a memorial.

One battlefield tour guide revealed that some school pupils can’t resist taking selfies at war graves – but said attempting to ban mobiles altogether was the wrong strategy.

Dozens of parents attended a meeting this week to discuss the trip and many were astonished to be told all mobiles were to be left behind.

One, who asked not to be named, said: “The teachers were very clear that mobiles are so distracting that the kids would miss out on the benefits of the trip. I suspect they are also worried about kids misbehaving – taking selfies at graves and sticking them online.”

She added: “I think that’s unfair to the kids because the ones who want to go on the trip know to how to behave and are interested in the war.

“I don’t understand why they can’t take them off them during the day and give them back at night.”

Parents expressed concern that the ban would make it difficult to keep in touch – and could even compromise safety.

The parent said: “The kids are going to be allowed time on their own without a teacher. You never know what could happen and if they’ve got a mobile they can try to get help.”

The St Thomas trip will take place at a particularly sensitive time, just days after the 100th anniversary of the end of the Second Battle of Ypres. It is estimated that 850,000 Allied and German soldiers lost their lives in the area. Of these, 325,000 were British casualties.

Genevra Charsley, who runs the Ypres Battlefield Tour in Belgium, said that there have been times where students acted inappropriately.

“I can understand why there may be concerns, because there have been instances of students taking selfies in cemeteries which is incredibly disrespectful,” she said. “But there are other ways of making students behave rather than banning phones.”

The city council said the initial ban was to stop mobiles being lost or stolen and to prevent students running up large bills while abroad.

St Thomas’ head of school Tommy Hughes said: “I’ve discussed it with the staff concerned and pupils can take their phones with the consent of their parents.”