2nd November 2017
Daily summary of the latest news and opinions from the world of independent education bought to you by Education Advisers...
The headmaster who banned mobile phones... and now wants to bring back textbooks
A profile of Peter Phillips, headmaster of S. Anselm's in Bakewell and his approach to teaching.
The threats facing schools have changed. Walk through playgrounds or corridors and instead of happy chatter, shrieks and whoops, you’ll be met by the tap-tap-tapping of buttons, faces illuminated by screens and pings from incoming Snapchats.
Yet the problems faced by a generation of screen junkies hooked on devices are well documented. The Office for National Statistics reported that children who spent three hours or more on social media during the school day reported more than twice the number of mental health problems than those who spent no time online.
Doctors have likened the effects of tech addiction on young minds to cocaine dependence. Reliance can breed anxiety, fuel low self-esteem and gives bullies an anonymous 24/7 playground. So it’s for those such as Mr Phillips, who are leading the charge against the new digital order, that we should be grateful.
“I firmly believe that electronic devices of any type have no place in childhood,” he confirms. “Phones are a burden and self-absorbing. They shackle people and are a distraction. What I want is for children to be unburdened and not distracted so they can concentrate on each other. When TV first came around, there was this obsession with only watching a certain amount in case it was bad for your brain. Now, in 2017, we are dealing with a not dissimilar problem.”
A growing body of evidence supports Mr Phillips’s stance. Schools where phones are banned saw scores improve 6.4 per cent for 16-year-olds and by 12.2 per cent for lower achieving students, according to a 2015 study by the London School of Economics.
The dogged persistence of the British ‘old boy’: how private school alumni reach the elite
The mythical figure of the public-school ‘Old Boy’ has long had a hold on the British cultural imagination. But, as the LSE blog explores, alumni of elite schools continue to enjoy very real advantages in reaching the elite.
the power of elite schools clearly lies beyond simple academic excellence. These schools do not just prime ‘old boys’ to achieve credentials; they also likely endow them with a particular way of being in the world that signals elite male status to others. This may no longer resemble the antiquated embodied style of the British Gentleman. But, as others have suggested, may manifest in broader (yet similarly gendered) dispositions of self-presentational polish that have currency across a range of settings.
This polish is enacted in particular ways of speaking and dressing but also in more diffuse “ways of knowing”; it is “not what you learn in classes but how you know it,” as elite education scholar Shamus Khan has argued. And these schools continue to nurture valuable extracurricular interests, particularly in terms of sport, cultural participation, and taste. Of course these dispositions and practices do not necessarily guarantee entrance to the elite, but they may be key ingredients in understanding the continuing, dogged persistence of the British ‘old boy’.
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