How screen-free Fridays saved our staff and students

Eye strain, backache and general frustration are among the many issues caused by sitting at a screen all day. So this school decided to do something different – and the results speak for themselves

Debbie Kite-Williams

Teacher overload

Remote online learning lost its novelty value pretty quickly. Staff have become accustomed to teaching into a void of muted icons. Despite trying different teaching strategies and using a variety of tools, each day feels a lot like the previous one.

It’s an exhausting way to teach and to learn, and we are also hearing the warnings about screens damaging eyesight

At our school, we were fortunate to have leaders who decided to take action to counter these issues. After listening to staff, student and parent concerns about eye strain, backache and the frustration caused by sitting in front of a screen all day, we made some changes.

Lessons learned

First, we reduced each lesson to 45 mins down from an hour. This meant each lesson would start at the normal time but it allowed teachers and students an extra 15 minutes to stretch their legs and move away from the screen. 

Teachers immediately reported improvement in productivity. They noticed students were not just more likely to arrive on time but that they were also more focused. 

We also implemented Screen-Free Fridays. These began at the beginning of February and we intend to run them until all pupils return.

In place of virtual lessons, we issued a list of suggestions for activities, and incentivised participation by awarding prizes.

These activities included reading books, walking, cooking, helping with housework...we made it clear it the most important thing was that all screens were off-limits, so no XBox, no PlayStation and no phones!

Incredible results  

The results amazed us. We were expecting a trickle of entries but instead we were overwhelmed with photographs of our students taking part in a huge variety of tasks.

Many students and families took the opportunity to get outside and go for a long walk. One family baked for the local hospice. Some pupils helped to decorate their house. One student used the day to improve their French and another learned how to use a non-digital film camera. 

Other schools are making changes to suit their own communities. This might be things like lighter lunches – where the lunch break is extended to allow time outside while it is still bright – to wellbeing walks where a lesson is set aside to allow students and staff to go for walks to get away from their screens.

If you are interested in organising more screen-free time for your students, there are lots of ideas online. Try searching #screenfreelearning on Twitter.

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

Debbie Kite-Williams

Latest stories