Elite boys’ school bans all electronic devices
EXCLUSIVE: Angus Williams enjoys "immersive conversations" at lunch with his friends.
For Robert Napoli, 15, having a phone in the playground was a burden.
The boys attend The King's School at North Parramatta where all electronic devices have been banned during school hours.
For the first time in a while the school cricket set is getting a work out and teachers are noticing other benefits of having a phone and device free school.
The school joins others private schools, including Ravenswood School for Girls, Newington and Meriden which have all banned mobile phones during class time, lunch and recess.
Angus, 15, said not being able to check emails and his timetable during lunch was annoying but meant he had to get more organised.
"I like the new phone policy because you can now have a fully immersive conversation with someone at lunchtime, rather than a person looking at the phone and the conversation getting off track," he said.
Robert said it had been widely accepted within the school community.
"It takes a load off their shoulders not having a phone in their hand and not having to check their phone every two minutes," he said.
The shift in policy comes after the NSW Government announced it would ban the possession of phones in primary schools from this year.
The King's School banned students up to year 10 from using a phone from the first bell until the end of the school day from the beginning of this term. Students are also banned from using laptops in the playground smart watches.
Deputy Headmaster Stephen Edwards said they trialled the ban with Year 7 students last term then extended it to years 8, 9 and 10.
He said he wanted to change things after noticing students at lunchtime all with bent necks staring into their phones and not interacting with each other.
"We have a beautiful environment and we wanted the boys to engage with that environment and engage with each other," he said.
"One of the housemasters said it was the first time in years that the cricket bat has come out and all of a sudden the boys were doing things together and they weren't sitting on their phones."
The devices aren't locked away but students must keep them turned off, with those caught using a mobile confiscated by the school's sergeant for a day.
Those busted a second time have it confiscated for a week and on a third offence parents are called.
Leading child psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg said banning phones was a sensible mental health strategy which lets children focus on learning.
"Some children would get up to 150 notifications a day - quite often some of which from parents," he said.
He said public schools could successfully ban phones if they wanted to.
"Schools like John Edmondson High School (in Horningsea Park) who have had the ban in place for five years report that there is increased socialisation and less screen time, more sport and healthy interaction - what the hell is wrong with that? Nothing."
Meriden School Principal Dr Julie Greenhalgh recommended that parents avoid buying smartphones for their daughters.
"If a girl needs a phone to contact her parents, a "dumb" phone is sufficient," she said.