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StAC Unplugged

Rationale

At St Andrew’s College, we provide a safe and positive learning environment for our students, which promotes cybersafety and a learning and social environment free from unnecessary distractions. This initiative is intended to encourage more purposeful social interactions and the embracing of interpersonal relationships through person-to-person conversations.

St Andrew's College is directly responsible for the safety and well-being of all students while they are on campus. Limiting the use of mobile phones in class and during break times will minimise opportunities for inappropriate use and reduce the risk of unwarranted distractions. The College is also keenly aware of research that has shown clear links between obsessive social media usage and anxiety and depression. Accordingly, the College will continue to provide guidance to students regarding appropriate usage of modern technology and social media, both of which will still have a place under this initiative as well as in the world beyond the school gates.

The College also recognises the need to use mobile phones in certain circumstances, and the guidelines below outline certain parameters in terms of their use.

When the College canvassed parents, caregivers and staff regarding this initiative, it received overwhelming support. The College did recognise the concerns raised, and as such, the College ran a trial limiting the user of mobile phones in Term 4 2019. Further feedback from the community was then sought and considered before a decision was made to implement ‘StAC Unplugged’ for Year 9–11 students in 2020.

Guidelines

St Andrew's College Middle School students will not be allowed to access their mobile phone between 8.25am–3.20pm during the school day. Students will be expected to have mobile phones turned off and in their bag or locker. The exceptions to this are:

  • when used in the Middle School Office to communicate with home; and supervised by a member of staff, i.e. the Head of Middle School, Dean or reception staff;
  • used to assist learning in the classroom as directed by a teacher;
  • if a mobile phone is required in exceptional circumstances, such as monitoring health conditions, etc. This must be approved by the Head of Middle School;
  • in the event of an emergency. 

Students who are seen using their mobile phones outside of the above parameters will have it confiscated for the remainder of day and will be issued with a consequence. Students can then collect their mobile phone from the Middle School Office at the conclusion of the school day.

The College recognises that emergencies can occur and that in these situations there needs to be communication opportunities between students and parents and caregivers. Therefore, students may carry their mobile phone, turned off, in their bags.

FAQs

Questions and concerns raised both before and after the trial have been summarised below, alongside responses from the College. 

Mobile phones are a part of modern life, a convenient modern-day tool and won’t banning them mean that students will not be equipped to know how to use them properly?

There is clear evidence, both within the College and beyond, that many young people struggle with self-regulation with both these devices and social media. Whilst some students are able to self-regulate, many are not. The College seeks to provide education around self-regulation and responsible usage, in tandem with opportunities to use these devices in an educational context.

Would you agree that the trial in Term 4 2019 adversely affected those students who already use mobile phones responsibly, e.g. for organisation, and those students who struggle with self-regulation continued to use their mobile phones surreptitiously?

It is unfortunate that responsible usage is inevitably affected by such initiatives. However, regulation by other means is logistically unachievable. It is the view of the College that the benefits to the collective well-being of Middle School students under the ‘StAC Unplugged’ initiative outweighs the regrettable inconvenience it brings to those more able to self-regulate and use mobile phones responsibly. The College is also aware that some students are choosing to contravene the initiative, and it is many of those students that may be struggling with self-regulation, and furthermore in some of those cases the students are exhibiting behaviour which could be interpreted as addictive tendencies. Accordingly, the College will continue to run a multi-faceted approach to education in this area and will be implementing other measures to encourage positive engagement with this policy.

What does this look like in practice?

Students are expected to have mobile phones turned off and kept in their bag or locker.

If a student is found by a staff member to be using a mobile phone without permission during school hours, it will be removed by that staff member and given to the Middle School Office for collection at the end of the school day.

It is important to note that teaching staff will be enforcing this element of the initiative and any concerns from the student or associated parents/caregivers should be directed to the Head of Middle School.

Why not allow a short period of usage at interval and lunchtime to permit the checking of messages, appointments and calendar events on mobile devices?

This was actively considered, but although seen to have merit it was ultimately decided that other tools and approaches, both technical and otherwise, are available to students as a means to organise themselves.

Why not a total ban which covers the Senior College too?

The College will continue to evaluate this initiative going forwards and will periodically review both it and the breadth of its application.

What about emergency situations?

Devices are permitted on College grounds, but must be kept switched off in bags during the school day, therefore accessible in the event of an emergency, as per current procedures. The College has also implemented additional measures for emergency contact via the Middle School Office.

How can messages be delivered in urgent circumstances?

Urgent messages can be delivered via the Middle School Office. The Middle School Office can be contacted on +64 3 940 2066.

How about arranging after-school pickup, or communicating about music lessons during the day?

Students have access to their College email accounts for non-urgent messaging purposes, plus there is a designated zone in the Middle School Office for supervised mobile phone use. Music tutors are advised to contact the Middle School office regarding any urgent last minute changes to arrangements.

Are lunchtime activities made available to students?

The Sports Shed is open every lunchtime, and further organised activities will be made available in 2020.

My son/daughter uses his/her mobile phone for medical purposes – how is this handled?

Use of a mobile phone for medical purposes is an approved exception in the policy.

Some international students rely on their mobile phone for translation as it is quicker and easier than a laptop. Can they still do this under this initiative?

This is assessed on a case-by-case basis by the Head of Middle School in conjunction with the Director of International Students and Exchanges.

Mobile phones are sometimes useful in the classroom – is this affected by this initiative?

No, mobile phone use for educational purposes continues to be permitted as directed by the teacher.

Mobile phones are useful to students for contacting parents/caregivers during the school day, e.g. for anxiety needs, is this affected by this initiative?

No, a designated zone in the Middle School Office for mobile phone use has been established for this purpose and will be handled on an individual basis.

Students use mobile phones for co-curricular communications – how does this operate if these devices are prohibited?

Co-curricular groups should not be using a mobile phone as the only means of communication. A standardised approach for co-curricular team communication will be released in 2020.

If students are not allowed to use their mobile phones, then what about the staff?

Staff are encouraged to positively role model usage as part of educational measures already in place.

What about laptops?

When a laptop is not tethered to a mobile phone, the College can restrict what sites are accessible through security measures already in place on the College network.

What about other technologies e.g. smart watches?

The College fully recognises that new technologies present new issues to understand and that some smart watches now do not rely on being tethered to a smartphone. They remain relatively niche compared with smartphones at this stage, but will be looked at this as with other emerging technologies.

Students use the StAC App to access their timetable – how can they do this without a mobile phone?

The StAC App is a tool designed predominately for parents/caregivers. Students can access their timetables on their laptops via the Community Portal. Students are also provided with a printed version of their timetable and also have access to their timetable via their Tutor Group Microsoft Team. Furthermore, every Middle School student in 2020 will receive a Year Diary (a trial initiative) and we are also working towards integrating student timetables into their individual Office 365 calendars.

Students may feel aggrieved at being restricted in using their own private property.

This initiative should be viewed similarly to the College rule that no food should be consumed in classrooms i.e. it seeks to establish expectations regarding behaviour that is supportive of an environment that exists first and foremost for learning.

Using a mobile phone is simply more convenient than using a laptop in certain circumstances.

From an educational perspective this is recognised, which is why mobile phones will continue to be permitted for educational purposes when approved by a teacher.

Students rely on mobile phones as a means of instant communications, e.g. whereabouts of friends. How can they do this without mobile phones?

The College recognises how convenient instant messaging can be. However, we are confident that students will use other well-established and long-standing means to organise themselves.

For ‘StAC Unplugged’ to be successful, it requires all staff to implement this with no exceptions.

We completely agree. As a staff, we will ensure a consistent application of 'StAC Unplugged' across the Middle School year groups.

What happened to the Mobile Zone app?

The Mobile Zone initiative was an important first step in this process and has identified what a technological tool can and cannot achieve in this area during the school day.

It is felt that Mobile Zone, and similar products, do offer parents/caregivers with tools that can help keep children safe and responsible no matter where they go, or what network they connect to. However, with the restriction of device usage during the school day, Mobile Zone no longer has a part to play at St Andrew's College.

How will this initiative apply to College excursions?

Due to the varied nature of College excursions, this is currently at the discretion of the Teacher in Charge of each trip.