Priory School leads on locking away mobile phones since 2009​

Posted on 23rd Feb 2024 in School News

David EJJ Lloyd, Principal at Priory School of Our Lady of Walsingham, comments on the new Government guidance on mobile phones in schools.

The Government has recently launched a crackdown on mobile phone use in schools, yet this is unlikely to change things here at Priory School on the Isle of Wight. Given that many Priory pupils use public transport to and from school, we do not ban mobile phones but they are removed from pupils and locked away for the duration of the school day. 

This has been our policy since 2009. We are a relatively small school, so locking away pupils’ phones is easier than it may be in a larger school, but the benefits are significant.

Pupils are not walking around the school site with heads down and fingers tapping away oblivious to their surroundings, personal safety and community. We encourage pupils to develop their communication and interpersonal skills, to talk, listen, socialise, attend clubs and learn. We discourage writing shortcuts devoid of correct spelling and punctuation, which all too sadly appear to have become standard format in texting and messaging. 

Mobile phones and social media have become a medium for unkindness and bullying, and as a Head of many years I know full well how much time, energy and emotion this can take to unravel. This unkindness can start in school and be carried on around the clock. I have seen far too many upsetting and deeply disturbing screenshots of pupil behaviour on phones, computers and games consoles, and we strongly encourage pupils to type as if they were speaking to a friend, peer or member of staff face to face.

Much to the surprise of many parents at one of our ‘safer internet’ seminars, ‘groomers’ are increasingly using sophisticated filters which alter their appearance and voice, tricking children into believing they are communicating with someone of a similar age and profile. Fake and distressing news also pose a threat to pupil wellbeing, as do age-inappropriate images and videos. 

Mobile Phones are like trainers, with pupils chasing the next (expensive) model, and this can have ugly consequences, including aggression and theft, not to mention pressure on parents to pay.

Some schools allow pupils to carry their phones but ask that they remain switched off. Pupils naturally circumvent this by congregating in toilets and other unsupervised recesses around the site to power up and get a social media fix. School is a place to meet friends and enjoy their company, share experiences, feel safe and prepare for the adult world. Mobile phones are a major barrier to developing soft and hard skills and can rob children of their precious youth and school days. Mobile phones have their place and use in society but this is not in schools, and certainly not at Priory School where not having a phone between 8.30am and 4pm has been the accepted working norm for 15 years.