By Harrison Galliven, Local Democracy Reporter
A Wimbledon girls’ school has implemented 200 mobile phone lockers as part of its zero-tolerance policy.
The school’s deputy head teacher believes this move has helped re-establish the roles of parents, teachers, and students that had been blurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wimbledon High School implemented the Phone Away Box system over the summer holidays.
Students arriving in September were expected to place their phones in clear boxes on their lockers before morning registration, where they must remain till the bell rings at 4pm.
The independent girls’ school is the first school in the UK to implement a scheme of this type. Phone Away Box is an Irish company that has also worked with schools in Australia.
Ben Turner, Senior deputy head of Wimbledon High School, said: “There is loads of evidence of the impact of phones on level of interaction and on mental health.
“The Phone Away box is part of a broader policy of a zero-tolerance approach to phones. It has been hugely welcomed by all of our community.
“It makes it very clear from the moment you come into school what our beliefs about phones should be. The school day is for normal socialisation, education, time in the classroom, and time in clubs. It’s not for whatever’s on my phone. That’s not important.
“For example, our year 11s are required to keep their mobile phones in their locker during the day but are allowed to use them in their common room. They can look at it and put it back. They can’t take it around the school site with them, it will be confiscated if they do.”
While the responses appear to have been largely positive, Turner did admit that his staff did face some scepticism from parents who questioned the viability of the scheme.
He said: “I had some interesting conversations with some more cynical parents who ask me, ‘what if they bring a fake phone and have another phone on them?’ We are incredibly fortunate that our girls aren’t like that.
“We don’t have that issue of behaviour and deceitfulness. We have foreshadowed the communications before this, and it feels like an evolution, not a revolution.”
Turner also acknowledged that this scheme would not affect girls’ ability to remain safe going to and from school, and that there were processes in place if students needed to contact home.
Pictured top: Wimbledon’s Phone Away Boxes are only used by years 7 and 8, the rest of the school is trusted to keep them out of lessons (Picture: Phone Away Box)
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