Ashburton College has made a call on the use of cellphones within the school, with principal Ross Preece saying the new policy will address a number of concerns, including bullying.
A notice was sent out to parents last week which outlined the new school policy on the use of cellphones.
‘‘Following due consideration, our Board of Trustees has made the following decision effective from the start of the 2023 school year,’’ Mr Preece wrote.
‘‘From the beginning of the school day until the end, the phone is to be turned off and kept in a bag (not in a pocket). This includes interval and lunchtime.
‘‘If a phone is seen by a staff member it will be confiscated. Refusal to hand over the phone will become a pastoral matter. Year 13 students will be allowed discreet use of cell phones.
‘‘College management will provide more detail on the day-to-day management of this policy in due course.’’
Mr Preece outlined the reasoning behind the decision which included creating a better learning environment for students and reducing the amount of harmful content distributed through social media.
‘‘Our aim is to enhance both the social and academic curriculum,’’ he said. ‘‘We have gathered evidence over the past year which shows the impact of cell phones on student learning and ability to relate to others.’’
He recognised that cellphones are distracting and can impact students’ ability to focus which can have a negative affect on achievement rates.
He also acknowledged cellphones provided platforms in which students can access, create and distribute harmful content which may be used to bully or harass other students.
Mr Preece said by eliminating the use of cellphones within school hours, he hoped to see an improvement in social interactions between students.
‘‘Currently, we see large numbers of students sitting at breaks and staring at their screens,’’ he said.
‘‘Strengthening skill sets such as oral language requires time spent talking to other people.
‘‘This is developed through formal and informal situations, both in class time and during interval and lunchtime.
‘‘Conversations are required in order to work together, to connect and collaborate. The ability to relate and engage positively with others also plays an important role in enhancing the culture of our school.’’
Mr Preece said the board had spent the last year evaluating the use of cellphones during school time before reaching this decision.
He had previously claimed a large portion of student bullying occurred on social media platforms, of which the school had little jurisdiction due to privacy laws.
‘‘It’s a real challenge for schools to deal with the influence of social media,’’ he said. ‘‘Particularly when parents give their children unfettered access.’’
He said when it comes to bullying, ‘‘If it happens at school then we can deal with it. But the vast majority of stuff is online, it’s actually quite rare to have a physical encounter … most of the damage is done via social media.’’
He said the Board of Trustees had considered changing the policy on cellphone use last year, but had opted to give it more consideration.
‘‘Ashburton College is working to develop learners who are engaged in learning for life, collaborative, connected and creative.
‘‘We want to ensure that Ashburton College is providing an environment where students are encouraged to develop these skills, attitudes and attributes.’’
He said that parents who need to contact students throughout the day will still be able to do so through the school’s office.
The new policy will come into effect at the start of the 2023 school year.
-By Indi Roberts