In an interview yesterday, Sir Michael Wilshaw – the chief Ofsted Inspector – said that disruption during lessons is often due to the use of mobile phones in classrooms. He said that Ofsted are considering enforcing more nationwide rules in order to prevent students from texting, receiving phone calls and surfing the internet on mobile phones in school. He claimed that although “outrageous behaviour” in class rooms must be dealt with, it is the “low-level disruption that takes place which stops children learning effectively.”
Finally, someone who is talking a bit of sense. Obviously the incidences we hear of in the news of pupils running riot in corridors, fighting teachers and generally causing mayhem are problems that the education system needs to put some serious work into controlling, but I believe – and so, it seems, does Wilshaw – that in order to prevent the serious cases of disruption you have to first prevent the low-level disruption. The old saying “give them an inch and they’ll take a mile” is quite apt in this case because if teachers haven’t got control over a 15 year old who wants to text his friends or look up funny videos on the internet, how on earth are they ever going to stop him if he wants to throw things about or try to set fire to the place?
I remember being in a classroom with a new teacher and there’d be this process where everyone was unsure of what they can get away with so would keep trying the odd thing to test the water. First there was ignoring the teacher and just talking amongst yourself at the back, then came loudly interrupting what was happening, then throwing things about and so on until the stage was reached where students would wander in and out of the classroom freely whilst the teacher stood there shaking his head unsure of how this all happened. The problem was that if that teacher simply stopped the talking at the back straight away then the rest of it was so much less likely to happen, it’s the same principle with the mobile phones. One minute it’s just texting under the table but soon it becomes passing a phone with dirty pictures on it around and distracting people so much that the teacher gives up.
I think that Ofsted are doing the right thing here because, even if I may have enjoyed the look on that useless teacher’s face, I realise that actually what we were doing is royally screwing ourselves over for the future. The fact that I did the worst in the exams who were taught by teachers who had no control over the classroom is testament to that.
Will banning phones stop disruption? Hopefully it’ll help, but it’s hard to enforce such a ban properly. I think it will help if the teachers we have get some guts and stamp out the low level problems before it becomes a real distraction for those who want to – and need to – learn.