School phone ban boosts test results

Reporter: Beatriz Ayala
Date published: 26 May 2015

BANNING mobile phones in the classroom can boost test scores by more than 6 per cent, according to a new study.

Researchers at the London School of Economics looked at secondary schools in four English cities, including Manchester, and surveyed test scores before and after the ban. It found low-achieving and low-income students improved the most.

Report authors Louis-Philippe Beland and Richard Murphy said that despite the benefits of new mobile technology, phones caused distractions, reduced productivity and were detrimental to learning.

They said: “We found that not only did student achievement improve, but also that low-achieving and low-income students gained the most.

“We found the impact of banning phones for these students was equivalent to an additional hour a week in school, or to increasing the school year by five days.”

The study suggested that low-achieving students were more likely to be distracted by mobile phones while high achievers could focus in the classroom regardless of the mobile phone policy.

Since April, 2007, teachers have a legal right to confiscate items from pupils but there is no UK government policy about mobile phone use in England with individual schools making their own policy. More than 90 per cent of British teenagers own a mobile phone.

Paul McAvoy, assistant principle for learning development at Oasis Academy Oldham, said a policy was introduced three years ago to stop mobile phones being used during academy hours. Anyone in breach of the policy would have the phone confiscated and their parents would be contacted.

He said: “Students had started bringing them into lessons, using them under the tables, and were disengaged so we did something about it. Initially it was a challenge but after a week and a half of resistance it became the norm.

“It is very rare to see students using mobile phones even during break times or lunch times.

“We haven’t made a link between achievements and mobile phones, but I’m no longer having to tell students to put them away. They are more connected and involved with the lesson.”

Mark Giles, vice-principal at Hathershaw College said students were allowed to use mobile devices in school, but not in lessons.

He said: “Our policy is underpinned by our desire to teach students to use mobile phones properly and recognise, like adults do, when it is or isn’t appropriate to use them.

“We have a regulated student wifi network in school and encourage students to access revision resources on the VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) and apps like GCSEPod at break and lunchtimes on mobile devices.”