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Gordonstoun principal backs ban on mobile phones in schools

By Alison Kershaw, PA Education Correspondent

Teenagers should not be allowed mobile phones in schools because their brains are not mature enough to exercise self-control, the principal of the prestigious Gordonstoun School has said.

Lisa Kerr said schools needed to set boundaries and teach children how to control technology, rather than allowing it to control them.

Her comments came after another top headteacher suggested mobile phones should not be “demonised” and could be a force for good in the classroom.

Gordonstoun School introduced a mobile phone ban in 2017 (Gordonstoun/PA)

Jane Prescott, headmistress of Portsmouth High School GDST, said it was the responsibility of schools to show the positive aspects of the devices, and that banning them simply meant youngsters used them in places where they could not be monitored.

But Ms Kerr, principal of Gordonstoun – the world-famous boarding school in Moray, Scotland, attended by high-profile figures including the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales – objected, arguing that all schools could help pupils develop their potential by implementing a mobile phone ban.

Ms Kerr said: “Technology has an important role to play in the classroom but it has to be controlled.

“Teenage brains aren’t sufficiently developed to exercise the necessary self-control, so the adults in their lives need to set boundaries.”

“Just as you wouldn’t leave out bowls of sweets and expect children to eat sensibly, we need to help our students to control technology rather than allowing technology to control them,” she said.

“Some of our parents make considerable sacrifices to send their children here because they are worried about the negative effect of mobile phones.

“They know that, in our school, that pressure has been removed and their child will be having real, not virtual, adventures.

“It is time for all schools to help pupils develop their full potential through the simple step of a mobile phone ban.”

Headteacher Jane Prescott said phones could be used for positive purposes in lessons (Portsmouth High School GDST/PA)

Gordonstoun introduced a ban in 2017, and children are not allowed to use their devices from breakfast until the end of lessons and activities, unless directed by a teacher. Those seen using a phone without permission face having it immediately confiscated.

Ms Kerr added: “One of the immediate effects of our ban on mobile phones was an increase in noise levels, which we see as a good thing.

“Children are holding conversations, sharing jokes, and catching up with each other face to face, not via social media. They are developing great social skills.”

Mrs Prescott, incoming president of the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA), had argued that pupils could use phones in lessons for positive purposes, such as photographing a teacher’s example or sports team lists.

She said: “We demonise mobile phones. And there is certainly an aspect of mobile phones that is destructive – excessive social media use, being able to promote the celebrity culture, gaming on mobile phones.

“But there’s also a huge positive with them, in that communication has never been easier, or better.

“It’s our responsibility in schools to show the positive aspect of having a mobile phone, what it can be used for in a good way. And helping them overcome those negative aspects of having a mobile phone.”

Mrs Prescott said that at Portsmouth High, a private school for girls aged three to 18, phones were banned in the dining room as it was a social space, but were allowed in lessons when needed.

She said: “They’re not going to go away, we can’t be Luddite about it, we can’t stick our heads in the sand and hope that time will turn it back, because it won’t. They’re here to stay.”