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‘disconnect to reconnect’

Wairarapa College has decided to ban mobile phones, following a similar ban by Masterton Intermediate School [MIS] in October last year.

Principal Matt White said the decision came out of respect for staff.

“Our teachers are spending too much time managing in-class disruptions and distractions. Phones are too much temptation for students, and given the previous disruption of the last two years, we’ve decided to ban phones at school so our teachers can focus on teaching, and our students can focus on learning,” he said.

White said phones were a distraction and a disruption for students of all year levels and that the ban fitted with the school values.

“Our values are learning purposefully, engaging with pride, acting with respect, and daring to succeed.

“That means making the most of class time and respecting the teacher,” White said.

The new school policy, called disconnect to reconnect, aims to move students away from social media and gaming while at school, allowing students to connect better at break time and increasing engagement in sporting and cultural groups.

Like MIS, White said the school’s student support staff had been dealing with cyberbullying.

“When students post and comment on social media at school, it can become a school issue to discipline or resolve.

“The more we can focus on our core purpose of teaching and learning, the better our outcome will be,” White said.

Under the new rules, students will not be permitted to use their cellphones during school hours.

The first time a student is caught with their phone out, it would be confiscated until the end of the day.

For any infringements after that, the student’s family members would need to pick the phone up after school from the office.

Neighbouring school St Matthew’s collegiate banned cellphones almost three years ago.

Principal Kiri Gill said the policy had been an enormous success.

“Social media issues have almost completely disappeared at school.

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

Wairarapa College sent the policy details in a letter to parents and caregivers on January 16.

Parents can contact students via the school office in emergencies, and students who need their phones for medical reasons [like diabetes tracking] can arrange an exemption with the school.

The policy will be trialled for two terms and then reviewed using student behaviour reports, teacher feedback, and student focus group surveys.

Ministry of Education spokesperson Nancy Bell said schools were self-governed by their boards of trustees, who were responsible for school policy.

“Boards are responsible for ensuring students and staff are physically and emotionally safe at school, and student wellbeing is a key priority for schools.

“We expect schools to communicate clearly with parents what their school policies are and to consult with their school communities when they update or change them.

“Most students understand the need for rules, the rule-making process, and the important role they themselves play in promoting positive school environments,” Bell said.

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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