Does banning mobile phones stop friction in the classroom?

Gracie
Gracie, a senior pupil, says the phone ban has been a good thing for her school [BBC]

To ban or not to ban?

That's the question head teachers across Scotland have been faced with as they try to deal with the increasing use of mobile phones in school.

For one Glasgow secondary, the decision to keep devices out of the classroom was the right one.

All Saints in Barmulloch took the plunge earlier this year, banning mobiles completely from class.

English teacher Siobhan Healy said the phones were becoming a problem.

"We always tell our young people to keep it in their bags, even having it in the pocket, it's buzzing, it's a toy basically.

"There's never a time you have their full attention if the phone is there."

Teacher Siobhan Healy in a black t shirt in her classroom
English teacher Siobhan Healy says phones are "like toys" [BBC]

She added: "As well as that, it brings other problems into the classroom.

"If you speak to teachers we've all had a scenario where something has popped up in class that's caused argument or upset.

"They're never able to get away from other young people who are annoying them or putting things up about them, so it can really cause friction in the classroom."

Now, any student caught using one during lessons is asked politely to put it away.

If this doesn't happen, it goes in a box until the end of the period.

Ms Healy says in the past, getting pupils' full concentration could be hard.

"You hear Snapchat pings happening. You quite often talk to the tops of heads and you know they've got their phone underneath the desk or behind a book.

"As soon as I am not standing up talking directly to them they think, 'I'm off the hook and I'm going to go on my phone'.

"It means you are repeating instructions four or five times so you're never really getting to move with the work you're trying to do."

Erin, with blonde hair and glasses, sits in her classroom
Erin, a sixth year pupil, thinks phones are a distraction [BBC]

At the moment the decision to ban or allow phones in some form is down to head teachers.

Some schools allow them in class, others keep them to breaks, while several have an outright ban.

But the Scottish government is expected to publish new nationwide guidance imminently.

Whether they should be outlawed in school is a subject that divides students, teachers and parents.

A recent international study, released by OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa), showed around a third of pupils in Scottish classrooms admitted being distracted by phones in almost or every lesson.

Ms Healy agrees but thinks a third is an underestimate.

The teacher added: "Even with your most focused and enthusiastic pupil there will be times when they have their phone out."

She agreed wholeheartedly that the ban on phones in class had made a big difference.

Ms Healy said: "If the phones are in the class, that's their whole social life in the class with them, if not it's class and focus time."

All Saints head teacher Brian McDermott sitting in his office
Head teacher Brian McDermott said there were two main issues around phone use [BBC]

Head teacher Brian McDermott decided a ban was needed after feedback from teachers.

"We designed it around two particular issues," he said.

"One was the misuse in classrooms and two, was young people trying to navigate around that by seeking to leave the class for legitimate reasons.

"But then that time out of class being much longer than it had to be.

"Young people were asking to leave class about six times a day and then being noticed with their phone."

He added young people were asked for their views and presented with the case that "learning is the key business".

Mr McDermott is happy with the way the ban is running just now, but is keeping an open mind as to what the Scottish government guidance might recommend.

He said: "It's significantly reduced the use in classrooms.

"It hasn't eradicated it, but it's brought a bit of a realisation, made more explicit, mobile phones can be contra learning and that's a good narrative to have in the school.

"Overall, I am pleased with it, but there's always room for improvement."

School pupil Ruby in her uniform sitting in class
Ruby has seen other pupils dodging the ban [BBC]

Erin - who is in sixth year - sees both sides.

"I can put it down, but it does hold a lot of a personal part of my life.

"In this generation it is a big part of life and I don't think I could live without it.

"They do cause a lot of distraction but they are a quick way to research stuff if we need that and they give us a lot of access to the internet."

First year Ruby said pupils accept the ban but she still sees a small number take them out in class.

"Some people that still do it and then get it taken off them, some put it away instead of taking it out. It's changed the way they think about it (phones).

Carson, wearing his uniform smiles at the camea in the classroom
Carson thinks his friends' lives revolve around their phones [BBC]

Carson, also first year, sees a lot of friends revolve their lives around mobile phones.

"I don't see a point in it," he said.

"I use Snapchat but I'm not on it every two minutes."

Gracie, who is leaving school this term, feels the older pupils are more focused on studies than the younger ones

She welcomed the ban as a "good thing" and highlighted how easy it is to get distracted by notifications.

Gracie, who admits they are useful for essay research, added: "There's a lot of dangerous stuff, strangers, getting hacked but I do think it's necessary now, I need it for work, the older generation don't understand how much the younger generation need it."

Parent Charles Smith in a grey jacket in a classroom
Charles Smith has two daughters and likes to know they have their phones for safety [BBC]

Charles Smith has two daughters at the school.

He supports what All Saints are doing but wouldn't like to see a total ban.

Mr Smith said: "I disagree with an outright ban within schools, there is good reasons for people having their phones.

"I often come here and pick my children up at the end of the day and I've messaged them to say 'I'm here'.

"Some times there are good reasons they need to get in touch with me, if they're not well etc.

"I do believe they [phones] are useful to have, but obviously not in classrooms."

Education SecretaryJenny Gilruth said at the end of last year that she wanted to update the national guidance on phone use in schools as quickly as possible.

A Scottish government spokesman said: “As a starting point for this guidance, head teachers should be empowered to take any action they deem necessary, including banning mobile phone use - indeed, many head teachers have already chosen to do so within their school communities.”

Mobile phones in schools