The headmaster who banned mobile phones… and now wants to bring back textbooks

The Telegraph reports that stepping into the office of Mr Peter Phillips – freshly anointed as Britain’s best prep school head – feels like stepping back in time. Hung along the walls are sketches of former bespectacled head boys, a clarinet sits in an open case, and a tartan ottoman heaves with teapots and pastries.

The lack of technology is no accident. Mr Phillips, as all good teachers before him, is leading by example. As one the few heads brave (many might say foolhardy) enough to insist on not just a digital detox but an all-out blackout, smartphones are banned and other technology such as laptops and tablets are restricted at S. Anselm’s, an independent prep school and college for three-to-16-year-olds set in bucolic Peak District countryside that costs up to £24,900 a year, and has just been recognised in Tatler’s School Awards.

The threats facing schools have changed. Walk through playgrounds or corridors and instead of happy chatter, shrieks and whoops, you’ll be met by the tap-tap-tapping of buttons, faces illuminated by screens and pings from incoming Snapchats. 

Yet the problems faced by a generation of screen junkies hooked on devices are well documented. The Office for National Statistics reported that children who spent three hours or more on social media during the school day reported more than twice the number of mental health problems than those who spent no time online.

Doctors have likened the effects of tech addiction on young minds to cocaine dependence. Reliance can breed anxiety, fuel low self-esteem and gives bullies an anonymous 24/7 playground. So it’s for those such as Mr Phillips, who are leading the charge against the new digital order, that we should be grateful.

Last month, a TES-YouGov survey revealed that less than one in 10 teachers thought they’d still be using textbooks in most or all lessons by 2020, and Nick Gibb, the Schools Minister, has previously lambasted the growing “anti-textbooks ethos” in schools to cut costs.

If subjects such as history or geography lend themselves to new media, for others such as English, textbooks are irreplaceable. “They change how you digest things and slow the process down,” says Mr Phillips. “It gives children security. Something to revise from. We are very textbook-driven. A nice healthy balance is hugely important.”

Read the full article The headmaster who banned mobile phones… and now wants to bring back textbooks

Has your school banned mobile phones? Is it being considered? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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