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Headteacher criticises government refusal to ban mobile phones in schools

The Head of a local independent day and boarding school in Bushey, St Margaret’s, has spoken out today following the recent news that Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi has decided not to go ahead with the plan to ban mobile phones from schools across England. 

Like many other teachers, Lara Péchard, believes that young people’s relationships with their mobile phones have changed as a result of the pandemic and not for the better. Schools like St Margaret’s have already banned their use in a bid to redress the balance and nurture the right behaviours, but in a way that is also sensitive to the needs and pressures young people face today.

Ms Péchard explained: “We have a ‘no mobile phones’ policy at my school.  As a result, it is very unusual to see a student using their mobile during the school day.  That said, banning phones is not the only consideration for schools. Like many others, I also have concerns about how we model good behaviour around phone usage, and I feel we have a duty of care to our young people to help them find a healthy balance.”Headteacher Lana Pechard

Many parents with teenage children will have understandably struggled to maintain routines and rules around mobile phone usage, particularly during the past lockdowns. As a result, Ms Péchard believes that teenagers have enjoyed, or perhaps in some cases endured, more unfettered access, which can be difficult to manage.

She continued: “We have started to tackle this issue with staff and parents through training and pastoral webinars, and we are considering carefully how we encourage screen-free time and balance. After all, it isn’t just teenagers who used their phones more often during the pandemic; we have all found distraction, comfort and social interaction through mobile phones. The average teenager will quite rightly be quick to highlight the hypocrisy of your overuse when challenging theirs, so modelling the right behaviour has to be the priority.”

For St Margaret’s School, spending time on tackling the overuse and the need that the phone fulfils, is a key focus.

“We need more open conversations at school and at home about the behaviour that we might not like. We need to do this in a way that engages and attempts to understand, empathise and support our young people. We should try to outline our concerns and consequences rather than offering sanction or judgement. In my experience, I’ve also found that real life cases, anonymised, create very powerful messages, such as the health risks around deterioration of eyesight and poor physical health,” said Ms Péchard.

On the Government’s decision, Ms Péchard said: “It is disappointing that the Government has chosen to avert a ban in schools, particularly in light of the increasing cases of mental illness in our young. We should be doing all we can to protect their wellbeing and reduce the health risks, many of which are clearly associated with excessive mobile phone use.”

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