Scotland’s newest high school to lock down pupils’ phones as part of social media ‘detox’ plan

Bertha Park High School in Perth will initiate the phones ban when it opens next month

A brand new £32.5m high school which will among the most technologically advanced in Scotland is to ban pupils from bringing their phones to class.

Bertha Park High School in Perth, which opens next month, will require all students to lock their phones in lockers from 8:55am to 3:40pm every day.

The plans were revealed in a Summer e-bulletin issued to parents, which states the ‘non-negotiable’ rule is being imposed to cut down on ‘unhealthy screen time’.

However, each new pupil at the new-build school will be issued a brand new Apple iPad, as part of research by the University of the Highlands & Islands.

Under the school’s phones and mobile devices policy, the school says with access to iPads with an internet connection there would be no need for pupils to be in possession of their phones and that they will ‘learn better’ as a result.

The plans state:

  • ‘We wish to encourage face-to-face interaction during intervals and lunchtime and cut-down on unhealthy screen time.
  • There is significant support amongst parents and teachers for a social media detox 
  • Access to social media can be a serious distraction and become a source of antisocial and undesirable conduct
  • The pressure many young people feel from social media can contribute to mental ill-health and is not helpful in a learning environment
  • Phone calls and texts home from young people experiencing challenges at school can often be unnecessarily alarming for parents, in the first instance.’

According to the rules, pupils will be able to take the iPads home with them if parents are willing to pay for a £1 per month insurance charge.

Perth & Kinross Council will control what apps are installed on the devices and teachers will control when they are used in class.

Homework will be both set an returned via the school’s online ‘Virtual Learning Environment’, accessible from the iPads or any other internet-connected computer.

Bertha Park, which earlier this year announced a partnership with US tech giant Microsoft – as a Microsoft Flagship school, one of only 17 in the world – will open its doors to pupils in just over a month’s time.

A Perth and Kinross Council spokesperson said: “The use of iPads at Bertha Park High School is part of a two-year study into the use of 1:1 devices to support learning and teaching. A research study is being carried out by the University of the Highlands and Islands which will help the Council to evaluate the effectiveness and potential future benefits of this approach.

“The equipment is being paid for from the school’s Devolved School Management Budget and only BPHS is part of the longitudinal survey/research. This is a well-planned approach to understanding the impact on learning of using such devices, and we are pleased to be working in partnership with UHI for this research.”

The move follows that of two private schools in Perthshire – Glenalmond College and Kilgraston – which have both outlawed pupils having access to their phones in school hours.