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StAC Unplugged now Secondary School wide

Regulus // Issue 3 // November 2022

More news for Secondary School

The StAC Unplugged initiative, which bans cell phone use in the Middle School during school hours, is so successful, it is has been rolled out in the Senior College, says Head of Secondary School, Evert van Florenstein. “There is an increased privilege for Year 12–13 students, who are allowed to use their phones during interval and lunchtime in the Senior College area only. The teachers have been really supportive, and most of the students are already familiar with the programme, having participated in the Middle School.”

Head of Middle School, Mikae Tuu’u, says there has been a noticeable increase in physical activity and engagement between Middle School students since StAC Unplugged was formally introduced at the start of 2020. “During interval and lunch we used to see students sitting in a circle on their devices. Now they are much more engaged, having conversations, or doing activities together such as playing in the Gymnasium, or kicking a ball around. The fields are packed during the breaks.”

With students’ brains ‘going at a million miles an hour’ when they are using their cell phones or social media, Mikae says they won’t get a break from it unless they are forced to. “We think there is a sense of relief for them to be disconnected for a while. We see little to no cell phone usage in the classroom these days. It is usually interval or lunchtime when students might have the odd weak moment. We have also noticed far less afternoon wobbles and withdrawals from students. They are a lot more focused in the classroom."

Year 11 student, Jenna Howell, has noticed positive benefits from the phone ban. “I do get nervous that I’m missing important messages when I can’t go on my phone. However by practicing phone-free school days, I’ve been able to overcome this. I focus much better in class when I don’t have my phone and connect better with the people around me. Overall, I’m more alert and present in my surroundings.”

Eilish Johns (Year 11) says her initial response to the phone ban was dread but her feelings have changed. “I actually don’t mind the phone ban anymore because it means I am less reliant on my phone for enjoyment.”

Evert says StAC Unplugged has also resulted in a significant decrease in online issues, such as bullying. “There are far fewer issues around online bullying and poor choices online. Most of the issues these days arise from things that happen outside of school time.”

Students in the Middle School are allowed to bring their cell phones to school, but they must be out of sight between 8.25am and 3.40pm. Evert says there is a safe zone in the Middle School where students can use their phone for emergencies. They can also use their phones for educational reasons if instructed by their teacher. “Another strategic decision we have made is to ensure technology is only utilised in the classroom when teachers are sure it will enhance the students’ learning and not disrupt it.”

The success of StAC Unplugged has not gone unnoticed by other schools, says Mikae. “I’ve met with a number of schools who have taken an interest in the programme. We’ve shown them our website page, and talked about how we rolled it out. It’s very positive.”

Our StAC Unplugged initiative sees students stepping away from their devices and increased physical activity and engagement among students.