From the Co-Heads of School

What a beautiful start to this term we have had. The grounds are looking wonderful, the weather is perfect, and the students have returned with so much energy and purpose. It has also been a busy start of term.
Along with all the usual life and energy in the school, we have also been concentrating on revising our mobile phone policy – specifically in relation to internet-enabled smartphone use by lower High School students. Conversations with parents, wider research on the impact of smartphones on wellbeing, and our own observations and experience, increasingly worry us about this issue.

Whilst we know that some technology can be a good servant, it can also be a very bad master, and it is incredibly hard for young people to not be mastered by smartphone technology. Smartphones are, in one sense, an unusual technology, because they are designed to be used in isolation from social checks and balances, and they open up unfettered access to the entire internet. In this, they offer huge temptation to our young students – temptation to explore areas of the web, for which they are not yet developmentally ready. Not only that, but the presence of pop-ups and the access to strangers means students regularly have unsolicited – and often horrible – social-media messages/images/videos foist upon them.

So, in response to this complex situation, we are in the process of seeking ways to reduce these risks and better support our whole school community, and especially our younger High School students.
We recently discussed student smartphone use and risk with Class 7 parents and they were keen for a supportive approach, designed to minimise risk for their children, to be implemented at our school.
Last week we also had some wonderful ‘student-voice’ sessions in Classes 8 and 9 to gain their perspectives. It was so refreshing to hear the maturity and balance in discussion with these students, who, despite being wary of any possible change to our mobile phone policies, could reflect on the difficulties with open-minded warmth and intelligence.

This week we are happy to announce that we have now initiated a new ‘Leave Phone At Home’ approach, beginning with our Class 7 students. Essentially, we have asked Class 7 Parents to support us in ensuring their child’s smartphone is not brought to school. This is because we are particularly concerned about students being tempted to take them out of bags to use them in unsupervised moments, such as when they are on the bus.

Concurrently, we are also in the process of refining a system which may allow smartphone permission for some particular individual circumstances; that is, for any student who must carry a smartphone, for example, to monitor a medical condition.

In the near future, we will be communicating on this topic with parents of Class 8 & 9 students, so that they too can join the conversation; but for now, we just wanted to reassure all of our school community that we are hearing and responding to the many concerns around this area of 21st century life.
Friday Markets
We do hope you are thrilled that, with the easing of Covid restrictions, we are once again beginning to open up some of our school community events, beginning with our Friday Market this week. We are also busily envisioning and planning festivals and other events; while conversations about what else we could do, have begun at P&F…
And so, as we move closer to Winter days, we leave you with these thoughts, from the American author John Steinbeck and the English writer Edith Sitwell:

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?”
“Winter is the time for comfort … for the touch of a friendly hand and for talk by the fire: it is the time for home.”

Happy Term 2 and best wishes
Paddy & Teera