A CRUSADING headteacher who banned mobiles has revealed how it transformed her school and rescued kids who were ”glued” to their phones throughout the day.
As Education Secretary Gavin Williamson pushes for a nationwide ban, secondary school headteacher Sherryl Bareham tells how her “no-mobile zone” has improved grades, made kids happier and reduced bullying.
It comes as Sun on Sunday figures show that nine out of ten under-12s take a phone to school and many parents are allowing five-year-olds to have a device.
Sherryl, 54, who runs the 750-pupil Dorcan Academy in Swindon, told The Sun on Sunday: “The decision to ban phones came as a direct result of me trying to have a conversation with a student and them not even looking up to notice me. They were glued to their mobile.
“I want our students to be personable, communicative and polite and this encouraged the exact opposite.
“We faced opposition at first from pupils and parents. In the end, they came round.
"The ban has helped our results to rise year on year for the past four years.
"Students have to talk to each other, improving their ability to communicate orally, which helps when you have to write.
“It also improves relationships. We used to spend a lot of time following up on ‘bullying’ incidents.”
Sherryl’s pupils must turn off their phones and put them in their bag until they are outside the school gates at the end of the day.
She only allows phones in classes for educational purposes such as videoing performances in PE.
She said: “Our policy is ‘see it, hear it, lose it’. If we see or hear a mobile phone, it is confiscated and the parents have to collect it. This is non-negotiable.
“We have the occasional parent who isn’t happy that they have to come and collect that phone.
"We explain that it is their child’s choice to break the rule, which has led to them having to come, so it should be them they are angry with, not us.”
Evidence suggests the headteacher is on to something.
A major report by the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics found schools that banned mobile phones saw 16-year-old students’ test scores improve by 6.4 per cent, boosting concentration to such an extent that it was the “equivalent of adding five days to the school year”.
Mr Williamson said the decision is ultimately for schools, saying: “I firmly believe mobile phones should not be used or seen during the school day and will back teachers who implement such policies.”
The rising number of kids who now own a phone is laid bare in new stats passed to The Sun on Sunday by Netmums.
The support website’s poll of 2,000 parents found 89 per cent of kids have a smartphone and the average age to be given a device is 11 (41 per cent).
But 20 of the 2,000 parents admitted buying their five-year-old a phone. The majority said it was to keep them connected via FaceTime or WhatsApp groups.
But access to phones has led to more incidents of bullying and poor academic performance, creating a mini-crimewave around schools.
According to official figures, the number of children aged ten to 15 who were victims of “snatch thefts” rose to 18,000 last year. This is a 28 per cent rise on 2018/19 figures.
Former headteacher Leon Hady, 39, believes phones are becoming a “gateway” into prostitution, drugs and crime for vulnerable kids.
Leon, who was head at the Stone Soup Academy in Nottingham and is now chief executive of teacher development specialists Guide Education, said: “We found mobiles were constantly being used in lessons for social media and gambling.
"Some used them to watch porn in the toilets during break and one of the biggest issues was sharing nudes. We found one girl soliciting herself from her phone.
“I’ve seen a child threatening to kill another pupil over messages.
"In the end we decided that children would be made to hand in their phones at the start of school so they could be kept in a locker.”
Another headteacher who has banned phones says remote learning in lockdown has made the problem even worse.
Ann Webb, who runs the Ysgol John Bright School in Llandudno, Conwy, said: “Children taught via Zoom have got used to looking at their phone in online lessons.
"Now children are back in class, it is vital they are fully focused on classes. In our school the ban has helped improve academic performance.”
Charlotte Oliver-Holland, 17, revealed how years of bullying was made worse by mobiles.
The teen from Caldicot, Monmouth, recalls being called “dyke”, “emo”, “fat”, as well as being told to die by people at her school, as well as total strangers.
She said: “I just didn’t want to be at school as it seemed like such a toxic environment.
"Phones and social media were hugely attributed to my bullying. As a 12-year-old, it’s not nice to hear. You take it to heart.”