Schools with cellphone bans in place report increased productivity and better social interactions.
This comes as National leader Christopher Luxon announced the party would ban the use of mobile phones in all schools if elected.
Luxon is taking questions from the media on the policy at 12pm.
A number of schools, including Diocesan School for Girls, Otago Boys’ High Schools, Ashburton College and Rotorua Intermediate, already have cellphone bans in place during school hours.
Wellington Girls’ College recently changed its rules around cellphone usage so students have to place their phone in a pocket hanging on the wall at the start of each class. The teacher counts the phones and students to make sure everyone has complied.
But students are allowed their phones during breaks.
Year 12 student Tessa Gilhooly told RNZ said she was against a full day ban but liked the school’s new policy.
“It’s really helped me to focus more and I think it’s a really good move.”
When Diocesan School for Girls introduced the ban in 2019, Year 7 Dean and languages teacher Neil Cheetham said instead of “obsessing over chats, internet content and social media posts”, devices were merely being used for educational purposes and as an appropriate tool to enhance their learning.
Teachers had enjoyed seeing the students playing together at breaks, and the policy had led to more impromptu and imaginative games.
In 2019, head of English at decile-2 St Joseph’s Māori Girls’ College in Napier, Radne Ardern told the Herald the school’s performance had improved because of a strict regime including no mobile phones, even though two-thirds of the 213 students are boarders.
“Literally, they are taken off them and not given back,” she said.
“The day girls are allowed to bring them to school but they have to leave them at the office and collect them again at the end of the day.”
Luxon today announced National would introduce a ban on phones for the entirety of the school day, including the morning tea and lunch breaks.
“To turn around falling achievement, students need to focus on their schoolwork during their precious classroom time.
“That means doing what we can to eliminate unnecessary disturbances and distractions.
“Many schools here and overseas have experienced positive outcomes, including improved achievement, after banning the use of cellphones.”
He said phones would need to be off and away during school hours but it would be up to schools to decide how to manage and enforce it.
Some schools might require phones to be handed in at the start of the day and collected after school while others may tell students to leave them in their bag or locker, he said.
He said there would be exceptions for students with special circumstances while parents could contact their children via the school office if need be.
But, Secondary Principals’ Association president and principal of Papatoetoe High School Vaughan Couillaut told RNZ he believed the plan was not necessary.
“Actually what’s best is to empower schools to make decisions that are right for them and their community.
“I don’t think central [government] controlling banning is the way forward.”
While students weren’t generally allowed to use phones in class at Papatoetoe High School, there were situations where it was appropriate to use them, said Couillaut.
“In some lessons they’re away and you don’t see them the whole lesson and other lessons they might be engaged in videoing [a classmate] doing a speech or performing at sport.
“A piece of legislation that bans [phones] won’t instantly stop [inappropriate use] overnight, it will create conflict, it will create a legal requirement for us to confiscate rather than to educate and train students on how to use things appropriately.”
Then there were the practicalities of enforcing a ban with smart devices like watches, he said.
Couillaut gave the example of Mt Albert Grammar which has 3000 students.
“If it took one minute to take a phone and process it off a student at the gate, that’s 3000 minutes of human resource to get everyone’s phone off them in the morning, 3000 minutes in the afternoon, 6000 minutes of phone policing, there’s no time for Maths and English.”