THE head of St John’s School in Marlborough has spoken out about the school’s mobile phone policy, after concerned parents claimed the devices were a distraction and a platform for bullying.

Dan Rogan, the acting head who will be stepping down from his role after Christmas, says mobile phones are a useful tool for learning, that the school has strict rules regarding the use of social media and that pupils are taught the importance of correct online behaviour.

The Gazette and Herald received many responses from a recent social media post where parents shared their views on the rules on phones, with many saying the fact that children being constantly online at school is a cause for concern.

The parent of one pupil who was the target of online bullying through social media at St John’s wants phones to be banned in school - and plans to approach new head Ian Tucker when he begins in January.

They said: “Our government is leaving it up to individual schools to enforce their own rules on mobile phones, and it’s It needs to be cracked down on. They are a distraction from lessons and education.

“There is so much pressure on our children that they feel like they need to be on social media, and if they aren’t then they are made fun of for not fitting in.

“This is an ongoing problem which could be solved by taking phones off all children and giving them back at the end of the school day.

“Kids have top of the range phones that many families can’t afford, and parents feel pressured into giving their child the latest model. If they have a brick, they will get bullied.

“Phones are highly addictive, and the matter needs to be taken seriously.”

Mr Rogan said: “At St. John’s we allow students to have mobile phones with them at almost all times, except when doing exams or during PE lessons. Students are only allowed to use phones during lessons with the express permission of their teachers, when they are a valuable aid to learning like online quizzes.

“At other times students might research a topic they are studying and this is the most typical use of phones. Such use does not dominate lessons and students are otherwise expected to have their phones out of sight.

“Students are clearly told that they must not make calls or send messages during lessons. Students are not allowed to use phones for other purposes during lessons and they are told that phones must be in silent mode during lessons.

“Students can use phones before and after school and during break and lunchtime. Students are expressly told that they must not take, send or post photographs or videos whilst at school and that any apps or media they access must be age-appropriate.

“Many students, and parents, use their phones to manage homework, using Show My Homework, which we have used for the last couple of years.

“Correct online behaviour is taught in wellbeing lessons from Year 7 to 11. Inappropriate behaviour related to mobile phones is dealt with in the same way as other such behaviour. Students are expected to follow the instructions of their teachers and sanctions are given if they do not. We create clear expectations in school and we help students manage their use of technology effectively. We hope that the work we do also helps students and families manage this use outside school. When students or parents report inappropriate online behaviour or bullying in school, we deal firmly and effectively with the incidents as we do in other cases.

“We always welcome the opportunity to work with parents. to resolve problems“We do not find that mobile phones distract our students; we think the access they provide to information can be of enormous benefit.

“We have reviewed our mobile phone use policy this year and we would expect to do so again next year, but we would not currently expect to make any changes.If any parents or students have concerns, they should let us know as soon as possible so that we can work together to deal with difficulties.”