A ban on mobile phones, and other devices, introduced by Glenalmond College just over a year ago, is delivering a raft of major benefits.
Pupils at the leading independent school in Perthshire, have benefitted from increased social interaction and improved ability to focus on school work, during their first year in a phone-free learning environment.
These benefits are underpinned by the findings of a new Education Scotland report on Glenalmond, published this month following a visit by HMI inspectors to the school in November. The outstandingly positive report highlights the good manners and courteous behaviour of pupils and their clearly-articulated pride in their school, as well as their exceptional academic performance.
Many of the improvements resulting from the mobile device ban during school hours – such as increased focus on learning and social interaction - were observed almost immediately after the ban was introduced in autumn 2018.
According to Gareth O’Neill, Deputy Head (Academic) at Glenalmond College, the first year of the mobile phone and social media ban has been a resounding success.
“Without mobile phones, our pupils have learned to manage their time which is a very important skill. They are not distracted by social media, or by other pupils using their mobile devices, so they focus on using their time effectively.”
One of the clear benefits reported by staff and visitors to the school is that of the very positive social interaction between pupils during the school day.
“These improvements in the social skills of conversation and listening to others, are incredibly important life skills. You only have to walk into our dining hall at lunchtime to observe this in practice – the children are totally engrossed in conversations with other,” observed Mr O’Neill.
“Visitors to Glenalmond also remark on how welcome it is to see pupils chatting and laughing together between classes, in contrast with other schools where the pupils’ heads are down during break times as they scroll through their screens,” he added.
The overall time pupils spend on their mobile phones has significantly reduced following the introduction of the new policy which started in September 2018. Phones are now stowed away until the end of the academic day in the policy which was has been fully supported by parents, staff and the majority of pupils.
Explaining the background to the decision, Mr O’Neill said a number of academic studies had revealed that mobile phones were having a negative effect on pupil behaviour and academic achievement.
“So we carried out our own investigation and, following an in-depth consultation with pupils and staff, the ban on mobile phones was introduced,” he said.
Mr O’Neill said a key learn of introducing the ban has been to have absolute clarity on the rules and ensure there are clear sanctions for anyone who flouts the rules.
While mobile devices and social media are banned during school hours, pupils are very much encouraged to use digital technology as part of their studies. One example of the school’s commitment to this is the extensive use of chrome books at the school, including in the school’s library.
The findings of the new Education Scotland report confirm that Glenalmond pupils are highly engaged in learning and supportive of their school.
The report commends Glenalmond for its “welcoming, friendly and supportive” ethos. This “promotes a sense of respect and kindness across the school community….young people speak very proudly about their school and their many achievements.”
Pupils at Glenalmond are described as “courteous, highly motivated and keen to experience challenge in their learning.” The report details the extent to which pupils benefit from “supportive relationships with their teachers and pastoral and house staff.”
Glenalmond’s effective tutoring system, and focus on the wellbeing of their young people, was also highlighted as a major strength, with a particular focus on enabling young people to become more resilient.