Eton’s ban on mo­bile phones is Lud­dite, say an­gry teach­ers

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Camilla Turner ED­U­CA­TION ED­I­TOR

ETON COL­LEGE is fac­ing a back­lash from teach­ers af­ter ex­per­i­ment­ing with a ban on stu­dents from us­ing mo­bile phones in the class­room.

Si­mon Hen­der­son, head mas­ter at the £40,000-a-year school, wrote to par­ents at the start of the aca­demic year to an­nounce the ban, which he said would be in­tro­duced as a trial.

But the move left some of its teach­ers “spit­ting” with anger, with one se­nior mas­ter crit­i­cis­ing it as “Lud­dite” and “Amish”.

Joe Francis, an English teacher at the school, said the trial ban caused some con­ster­na­tion among masters who see mo­bile phones as a use­ful teach­ing aid.

“There are some teach­ers who are ab­so­lutely spit­ting about it,” Mr Francis told The Daily Tele­graph.

“They tend to be the more techie teach­ers, maths and sci­ence peo­ple who think it is a bit Lud­dite and an­tiprogress. There will be peo­ple, older peo­ple par­tic­u­larly and hu­man­i­ties teach­ers, who ap­plaud it. I sym­pa­thise with [them] but we have to get across this di­vide.”

Ear­lier this week, Damian Hinds, the Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary, said he sup­ports any head teacher who chooses to ban mo­bile phones, say­ing that they get in the way of ed­u­ca­tion. But Mr Francis, who is de­vel­op­ing a new kind of ed­u­ca­tion model that will embrace the use of tech­nol­ogy, said that mo­bile phones are an in­valu­able class­room re­source.

“You have an in­stant dic­tio­nary, cal­cu­la­tor, en­cy­clo­pe­dia … you have an amaz­ing re­source there,” he said.

Schools that seek to ban phones risk be­ing seen as out of touch and “fuddy duddy” by young­sters, he added.

The ban is one of a num­ber of new ini­tia­tives be­ing tri­alled by Eton, which has set up a work­ing group to con­sider boys’ use of mo­bile phones in school. The school al­ready con­fis­cates phones from teenagers overnight, which Mr Hen­der­son says is an at­tempt to pre­vent the “24/7” so­cial me­dia cul­ture.

In a let­ter sent to par­ents last month, Mr Hen­der­son ex­plained that the school in­tends to de­velop a strat­egy that “recog­nises the ben­e­fits of mo­bile tech­nolo­gies and ed­u­cates boys in us­ing these re­spon­si­bly”, but which also “pro­tects boys from the down­sides of over-use and from the dan­gers of mo­bile phone ad­dic­tion”.

A num­ber of other schools, in­clud­ing Brighton Col­lege and Wim­ble­don High School, in south-west Lon­don, have also im­posed lim­its on mo­bile phone use in an ef­fort to wean stu­dents off their “ad­dic­tion” to tech­nol­ogy.

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