No phones in school - Wakatipu students adapting well

3 minutes read
Posted 28 May, 2024
Wakatipu High School

Wakatipu High School students are adapting well to the phone ban

Most Wakatipu High School students have adapted to the government’s new ban on cellphone use in schools, and while the toilet cubicles seem to be very popular for some at break times, the majority of students haven’t skipped a beat, principal Oded Nathan says.

National delivered on its promise of no phones in schools with the new rule imposed nationally from the start of Term 2 on 29 April.

The school already had a rule that cellphones are to remain silent and in school bags and only come out during class time with the teacher’s permission. “We’ve turned up the heat a bit this year and now under the new rules phones must remain in bags during break times too,” Nathan says.

“It’s mostly going well but our toilet cubicles seem to be more occupied as apparently, a small minority are going in there to use their phones, but most of the kids seem to have adapted pretty quickly,” he says.

It’s too early to tell if they’re more focused in class. That’s hard to quantify at the moment, but we hope that it might show even more improved academic results.

He says the main thing is to teach the students how to manage their phones and the distractions they bring.

Deputy principal Lee Hiestand says they definitely confiscated a lot more phones at the start of this term as students adjusted after coming off summer break. However, most have largely responded well to the tightening of regulations. They’re not allowed their phones out during class time, unless approved by the teacher as required for teaching purposes. “The odd one has asked if they can get their phones out to text their boss about work after school, or to text the rugby coach about practice. Students are able to go to Student Services to use their phones for these types of reasons,” Hiestand says. “Online is a huge part of their world now so it’s actually good for the students to have a break from social media and phones.”

She says as a school there’s been a lot of work done in the past year or so to make students and parents aware of the regulations under the Harmful Digital Communications Act. “We want them to know it’s not okay to share mean stuff online and take other people’s photos without permission,” Hiestand says. The school recently circulated a newsletter focused on this for Pink Shirt Day which promotes the anti-bullying message. That outlined extensive policies in place at the school to help any students feeling threatened or bullied.

Head student Mason Clarke says with tighter rules ensuring phones were already banned in class at Wakatipu High it hasn’t been too much of a transition not being allowed them out during school breaks. However, some students don’t see the point in that. “Most people agree it’s a good idea though.”

Student leaders often walk around the school during breaks to check that everyone is happy and student leader Jess Hudson says they’ve definitely noticed students are not on their phones during breaks. “They’re now talking to each other, kicking balls around, outside enjoying each other’s company”, she says.

Deputy head student Abby Fookes agrees more students are using the gyms during break. Seniors, especially Year 13s, probably find it the hardest, but it will forge good habits for next year when they’re studying, she says.

Queenstown Primary School principal Fiona Cavanagh says they already had a ‘phones in bags at all times’ policy. Teachers decide if certain circumstances warrant a child’s phone to come out of the bag or not. That policy has been extended since the new government ban. “They used to be allowed to get them out of their bags at 3pm to message parents, but now they have to wait until they’re at the bottom of the school’s front steps,” Cavanagh says.

Remarkables Primary School principal Tim Young says the school has always had a ‘no phones during school time’ policy since opening 13 years ago. “This has been a great opportunity to remind kids and the community, and it will be bound to have a positive impact,” Young says. Once kids started turning up with phones at school years ago many primary schools felt they weren’t necessary and introduced policies. With 13-year-old age limits on a lot of apps and online platforms primary schools also had to ensure they met their legal requirements.


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