Outwood Gives Backing To New Phone-Free Schools Campaign

Outwood Grange Academies Trust (OGAT) is backing a new campaign for schools to issue an outright ban on phones within the school gates.

The national campaign has been launched by Parents and Teachers for Excellence (PTE) after Onward published new research on the impact of mobile phones in school.

The research found that schools that ban phones deliver an average 6% increase in test scores, with pupils 2% more likely to achieve 5 A*s to C at GCSE. Widespread support for the policy around the country was also found when polling for the report, with 65% of respondents saying they agreed that mobile phones should be banned in schools.

The campaign, backed by over 30 high-profile heads and multi-academy trust CEOs representing over 120 schools, calls for headteachers to adopt tough policies to ban mobile phones outright during the school day

An open letter signed by those supporting the campaign, including OGAT CEO Martyn Oliver and 13 other OGAT colleagues, heralds the benefits of phone-free schools and urging fellow school leaders to adopt the strict policies.

The campaign calls for Ofsted to inspect on mobile phone use as part of its inspection process and for a new kitemark system developed by Parents and Teachers for Excellence (PTE) to be adopted to allow parents identify “phone free schools”.

The kitemark will be used to accredit schools that sign up to two simple but effective principles to limit screen time during school hours:

  • For Year 11 students or below, mobile phones are not to be used, seen, or heard at any point anywhere on the school site;

  • Breaches of this rule, without expressed permission in exceptional circumstances, would be sanctioned in line with the school’s usual disciplinary procedures.

Schools that choose to follow the rules outlined above can display it to quickly demonstrate their support for strong, consistent policies on mobiles.

Martyn said: “Whenever we take over a new school, we literally paint a line at the school gate, beyond which phones cannot be seen. Any phone seen by a member of staff, whether switched on or not, is immediately confiscated. It must then be collected by the parent; it is never returned directly to the pupil.

“This is normally an issue for the first two or three days, after which it goes away, usually for good. Parents realise that this is a necessary part of ensuring the school is as good as possible, and pupils often end up appreciating the respite from the pressures of social media that the school provides.

“We also encourage and support parents who wish to limit their child’s screen time at home, which is often easier said than done. The more I read about the potentially damaging effects of smartphones, the more I feel confident that we are doing the right thing, and I encourage other schools to take the leap and implement a similar policy.”

Will Tanner, Director of Onward, said: “There is now mounting evidence that bans on mobile phones in school could dramatically improve pupils’ concentration, behaviour and attainment – and would be supported by parents and teachers alike.

“Every school should be going Phone Free – just as the 120 schools signing up today have done – to support their children learn without distraction.”

Mark Lehain, Director of Parents and Teachers for Excellence and Founder & former Head Teacher at Bedford Free School, said: “We know just how damaging mobile phones can be to the stable classroom setting that every teacher aspires for. By having such a clear policy on phones, schools can minimise disruption and ensure the best possible learning environment for all.

“On top of this, a firm ban on phones can improve pupils’ mental health and reduce anxiety by ensuring that time spent in school is time spent away from social media and other potentially corrosive influences.”

“From a parent’s perspective, I have four daughters, so I know the pressures that parents face in getting smartphones for their kids. Knowing schools are working as hard as I am to limit screen time is reassuring.”

To read the full open letter, visit: www.ukonward.com/phonefreeschools

To join the campaign, please click here