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Heads more troubled by mobile use than class teachers

Mobile phones are one of the big issues to emerge in the latest national behaviour survey - but headteachers appear more concerned than classroom teachers.

One of the most common types of low-level disruptive behaviour is "using mobile phones against school policies".

Secondary heads believe that, of all the low-level issues, using mobiles against school policies has the greatest negative impact on staff's experience at school, whereas teachers point to "general rowdiness". Teachers consider misuse of mobiles "no more annoying or disruptive than many other low-level disruptive behaviours".

All types of staff have seen an increase in abusive use of mobiles, such as intimidating text messages, although this remains relatively rare on school premises and more common elsewhere.

A whole section of the report, written by Ipsos Mori Scotland for the Scottish government, is given over to mobile phones, and shows that schools are softening their stance. Fewer secondaries impose wholesale bans than when mobile phone ownership surged upward a decade ago, although staff still generally dislike the idea of mobiles in schools.

One secondary teacher said schools had to deal with a culture in which teenagers expected to have their phones with them at all times: "Coming here and telling them it's wrong, the concepts don't work in their brains."

One primary school had been experimenting with allowing P5-7s to use mobiles in class, which some staff think makes learning more fun, develops additional skills and often allows quicker retrieval of answers.

But many teachers have reservations, often around a perception that cyberbullying is a greater threat than "traditional" bullying and that teachers themselves will be at greater risk if restrictions are lifted.

One member of senior management at a secondary summed up a dilemma: while mobiles could improve learning in "lots and lots of ways", too many pupils were "irresponsible" with them.

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