School tries to break pupils’ addiction to smartphones with 12-hour day

A school is introducing a 12-hour day this week in a bid to “break” pupils’ addiction to their smartphones.

All Saints Catholic College, a secondary school in Notting Hill, will open from 7am to 7pm from Tuesday, offering extracurricular activities after lessons.

Andrew O’Neill, the school’s headteacher, said he wants to help children who spend their lives “buried” on their devices, with some unable to make eye contact or maintain a conversation.

“At this school, we are trying to break the cycle of kids using phones causing so many problems,” he told The Sunday Times.

“We are trying to give children activities in the evening, the kind of play-based childhood I enjoyed growing up in the village of Barton, near Darlington, instead of going home to their bedrooms and their phones.”

Mr O’Neill, 42, warned that failing to tackle the issue of phone overuse could result in a “generational” problem within workplaces and society more broadly.

Pupils at the school, rated outstanding by Ofsted, will be offered art, drama, dodgeball, basketball and cookery classes, and will also be served a hot dinner, after the official school day ends.

Earlier this year, the government announced a crackdown on mobile phone use in schools, although many had already banned them during lessons. The guidance, issued in February, backed headteachers in prohibiting the use of mobile phones throughout the school day – including at break times.

“Many schools around the country are already prohibiting mobile phone use with great results,” the Department for Education said. “This guidance will ensure there is a consistent approach across all schools.”

By the age of 12, 97 per cent of children have their own mobile phone, according to Ofcom.

Using mobile phones in schools can lead to online bullying, distraction and classroom disruption, which in turn can lead to lost learning time.

Last year, Unesco called for smartphones to be banned from schools as evidence showed their use was linked to reduced educational performance and that excessive screen time had a negative impact on children’s wellbeing.