BENENDEN SCHOOL is insisting that its pupils surrender their mobiles for three days this month to raise awareness about the girls’ reliance on digital technology.
The ‘Phone Fast’ will start in the evening on Sunday March 12, and continue until Wednesday 15 March.
Social media will also be blocked across the school’s network during this period. Staff have also been invited to take part on a voluntary basis.
The initiative was developed in partnership with a group of sixth formers, who asked staff at the prestigious girls’ boarding school how to ‘reduce – and manage more effectively – their mobile phone use’. Prizes will be awarded to the school house that lasts the longest without using their phones.
Headmistress Samantha Price, who will also go without her mobile during the Phone Fast, said: “Parents’ response has been incredibly strong to our announcement – their support is invaluable and we are incredibly grateful to them. “Needless to say, the response from girls was somewhat mixed at first! However, the Sixth Formers have done a brilliant job of explaining the reasons behind it and many girls (I would like to say a majority in fact) support the concept.
“I have no doubt that, as the Phone Fast dates draw nearer, girls’ initial shock at the prospect of being without their phones will be replaced by a determination to adjust – and ultimately to make the most of their spare time without the distraction of phones, with a party and, in true Benenden fashion, ‘Phone Cake’ to look forward to at the end!”
Victoria Molloy, the school’s Head Girl, said: “I can’t wait to see how the Phone Fast will prove that there is more to life than just our phones and social media.”
Alyssa Cho, another sixth former who is involved in the scheme, said: “We hope that everyone will take their eyes off their screens and enjoy what is around them.”
The school cited an Education and Health select committee plan to set up a joint inquiry into how schools have a role to play in helping to prevent young people from developing mental health issues.
It adds that the Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, has recently warned social media companies were not doing enough to ensure children understood the ramifications of sharing personal information.
The school already has strict rules around the use of mobiles. Until girls reach Year 11, they hand their phones in at night, while no phones are allowed in school during the day.
Sixth formers are permitted to keep hold of their phones during the day as long as they are not being used in class without permission.
Call for action: Mobile phone policy at six other local schools:
Bennett Memorial Diocesan School, Tunbridge Wells: Students may bring mobiles to school but they have to switch them off while in school, including at break and lunchtime.
Hugh Christie, Tonbridge: All devices should be switched off or on silent to avoid disturbing lessons. They must not be used in changing rooms or toilet areas. No images are to be taken of other students or members of staff.
Judd School, Tonbridge: Mobile phones may be used, as a phone, only in an emergency.
Tunbridge Wells Girls’ Grammar School: Mobile phones must be switched off during lessons but may be used at break and lunch times.
Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys: Mobile phones must be switched off during all lessons and are not permitted to be used in certain areas such as changing rooms and toilets.
Tonbridge School: Mobiles must be switched off during any formal occasion, including Chapel, lectures, plays and concerts, and in lessons unless the teacher specifies otherwise.