Wauchope High will continue locking students' mobile phones in pouches

WORKING WELL: Wauchope High principal Glen Sawle says the Yondr lockable pouches for students' phones are a success. Photo: Letitia Fitzpatrick.
WORKING WELL: Wauchope High principal Glen Sawle says the Yondr lockable pouches for students' phones are a success. Photo: Letitia Fitzpatrick.

Wauchope High hit the headlines in May when it became the first school in Australia to come up with a solution to the problem of students constantly looking at their mobiles.

They introduced pouches which snap shut, making the phones inaccessible. They can only be opened at the end of the school day by a special gadget as pupils leave the building.

The principal says the experiment has been so successful that they will continue with it.

"We have had the Yondr pouches for ten weeks now, and we are seeing a significant difference: a decrease in bullying, confrontations between kids, and fewer suspensions. We are not seeing any issues around students bringing social media issues into school," said Glen Sawle.

"Before, students were getting messages and updates during the school day. They couldn't avoid looking at them. Sometimes that made them anxious or angry, and they responded immediately and that became the focus of the whole day, rather than the teaching and learning going on in classrooms.

"There's been a significant change in terms of the school tone. Because we have the Yondr pouches in place at recess and lunch as well, students are talking to one another, there is more play, more games, social interractions, visiting the library more often.

"We have discussed it with the teachers and the P&C and we believe it is worth continuing to use the pouches. We believe the benefits have been significant and we want to see if they translate into better performance," he added.

Mr Sawle said there had been surprisingly little opposition to the move from the students.

"They have embraced this very well. I'm very proud of the way they have taken it on board. Some students have told us that they were amazed by how much time they were spending on their phones," he said.

He says social media has become so pervasive that people are often no longer in the moment, but are modifying their experiences through a tiny screen. Mr Sawle says the fact that students now have to talk to one another is changing the way they interact with each other, and that's a good thing.

He said it's a shared strategy, and it has helped students realise the impact of social media, and students have options to either leave their phone at home, or put them in pouches during school time.

Victorian public school students will be banned from using their phones from next year, and the NSW government plans mobile phones from public primary schools, in a bid to combat bullying and distractions in the classroom.

The move follows an independent review which found a rise in online bullying, the sharing of explicit images and a lack of focus in classrooms due to mobile devices.