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Nats would ban cell phones in schools

The National Party’s campaign promise to ban cell phones at school if elected is a policy that’s already in place at several Wairarapa schools.

Opposition leader Christopher Luxon announced yesterday that the ban would apply to primary, intermediate, and secondary schools and be in force through the entire school day.

A national ban could help turn around falling achievement, Luxon said.

“Students need to focus on their schoolwork during their precious classroom time.

“That means doing what we can to eliminate unnecessary disturbances and distractions.”

The policy cites a study by the United Nations education, science, and culture agency [UNSECO], which found cell phones negatively impact student learning.

St Matthew’s Collegiate banned cell phones in class three years ago and Masterton Intermediate last October, while Wairarapa College [the region’s largest school] followed suit at the start of this year.

Wairarapa College principal Matt White said the policy had been a success since being initially implemented as a two-term trial in term one.

“The report from staff was overwhelmingly in favour – they found students were less distracted in class, and out of class, we had fewer social media incidents,” White said.

When the trial period ended, the school extended the policy into the foreseeable future.

“Most feedback from whānau [family] has been positive and supportive of the ban during the school day,” he said.

“There are some areas we’re addressing as a school – making sure any urgent messages get to students or parents, as required.”

As for mandating a phone ban for all schools, White said it is for every school to decide on what policies and processes best meet the needs of their students and community, while adding that at Wairarapa College the cell phone ban has been “very positive to date.”

Masterton Intermediate principal Russell Thompson said the change has seen a huge reduction in negative behaviour compared to the past five years.

“Our only regret would be that we should have implemented the no cell phone policy at least five years ago!” Thompson said.

“I am not sure about what other schools should be doing. We made our decision in what we believe is in the best interests of our ākonga [students] here.”

Martinborough School principal Craig Nelson said his school has a system where the teacher collects cell phones in a bag in the morning and then hands them back to students at the end of the day.

Nelson said schools already have their own ways of dealing with cell phones, and the National Party’s policy does not address the important issues in education.

“It isn’t a policy; it’s just a rule,” Nelson said.

“It’s a way of avoiding having to do anything about the real issues in education of underfunding, understaffing, and overloading the real work schools should be doing.”

A national cell phone ban would unnecessarily increase schools’ regulatory workload, Nelson said.

“It’s just another burden put on the school. We’re struggling with the amount of things we’re being asked to do already.”

Earlier this year, St Matthew’s principal Kiri Gill told the Times-Age the ban has been successful at her school for the past three years.

“Social media issues have almost completely disappeared,” Gill said.

“I wanted our students to be doing better things at break time – good old-fashioned chatter, playing, exercise, and all those things we did before technology.”

Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age who regularly writes about education. He is originally from Wellington and is interested in environmental issues and public transport.

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