Tuesday 23 July 2019

'The use of smartphones is beginning to impinge on school life'

Phone policy: Teacher Louise McCann with her sixth class in St Patrick’s Loreto primary school in Bray, Co Wicklow. Picture: Kyran O'Brien
Phone policy: Teacher Louise McCann with her sixth class in St Patrick’s Loreto primary school in Bray, Co Wicklow. Picture: Kyran O'Brien

The 801-pupil St Patrick's Loreto in Bray, Co Wicklow is among the 38pc of primary schools that allows pupils to have their mobile phones while in school, but they may not access or use the devices during school hours.

The policy was agreed with parents and senior pupils in 2010. In practice, in this school at least, it is an issue for fifth and sixth classes, that age at which mobile phone ownership becomes more prevalent.

Principal Brian O'Doherty explains that they do not have a total ban on bringing a phone to school for a variety of reasons, including that some pupils travel long distances, independently, and may need contact with parents.

The policy is strictly enforced and breaches are rare "but when it happens we have excellent support from parents in dealing with it".

St Patrick's Loreto does still, however, have to deal with the consequences of their pupils' online worlds while they are not at school. "What is happening outside, in relation to the use of smartphones, is beginning to impinge, particularly in relation to negative interactions," says O'Doherty.

Where this occurs the response would be to engage in restorative practice, with issues around online safety now a de facto part of Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) classes.

But the problem doesn't necessarily end there. "If you ask any of the girls what to do in a particular situation they can give the right answers, but children are still making poor decisions online," says O'Doherty.

Irish Independent

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