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Top secondary school in French-style ban on mobile phones

Camden School for Girls raise concerns over teenage use of social media and need for screen breaks

12 July, 2018 — By Richard Osley

ONE of London’s leading secondary schools is banning mobile phones amid concerns that pupils need a break from their screens and social media.

Parents and carers at Camden School for Girls said the move to confiscate any handsets spotted by teachers would come into effect at the start of the next academic year. While policies on phones varies from school to school, many allow pupils to use them on the premises in break times and lunch hours.

The move to ban their use at the school in Sandall Road, Camden Town, echoes a total ban introduced in France at the end of last year and follows a debate in education ­circles about how long teenagers spend glued to their screens.

Headteacher Elizabeth Kitcatt said the decision “had not been taken lightly”, but added that pupils were “very poor at limiting and regulating their phone use”. She added: “Although the internet is undoubtedly a valuable learning resource, mobile phone use can be a serious distraction from learning during the school day.”

Pupils will be allowed to have mobile phones in school but they must be kept out of sight until the end of the day. Confiscated phones will be returned at the end of the day on the first strike, but students who get caught twice will need their parents to come and collect the handsets.

Children who have to contact their parents will be asked to use the main office phone. The popular school is known for its top exam results and pioneering history, having been set up by the suffragist Frances Mary Buss in the late 19th century. Its star-studded alumni include Emma Thompson, Tamsin Greig and Geri Halliwell.

Writing in a bulletin sent home to parents explaining the school’s change in policy, Ms Kitcatt said that the move would not undermine the school’s efforts to ensure children are familiar with technology.

But she added that “hyperconnected” social media use was putting pressure on relationships.

“It isn’t necessary to be connected to friends at all times and to have constant access to/updates on what our friends are doing” she said. “Schools should be a safe place in which people have a break from their phones and social media; this break will then promote more regulated use of phones outside of school.”

The school is also worried about the general impact of social media on teenagers. “It feeds into poor self-esteem as they are regularly exposed to the best versions of people’s lives/presentation of their lives, and compare this with their own,” the headteacher said.

As the French government passed its nationwide ban last year, education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said: “Children don’t play at break time any more, they are just all in front of their smartphones and from an educational point of view it’s a problem.” Camden School for Girls has offered to talk about its new policy with parents and carers.

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