Schools and parents can improve the social mobility of disadvantaged children by restricting access to smartphones, the chairman of the government’s social mobility commission has said.
Katharine Birbalsingh told the Association of School and College Leaders annual conference: “If we really want things to be fairer and we want our disadvantaged children to be socially mobile, the best thing I can do for them is to make them not have a smartphone.”
Birbalsingh described how his school – Michaela Community School in London – encouraged pupils to hand over their mobile phones and video devices to school for safekeeping as part of a “detoxification” program. digital”.
As a result, Birbalsingh said, half of Year 11 pupils at Michaela had volunteered to give up their phones until they took their GCSE exams later this year.
“We work very hard with families to encourage them not to give [their children] a smartphone. Because all problems start on smartphones,” Birbalsingh said at the conference.
“We actually do a digital detox with our kids at school, which means we have a big safe, and we strongly encourage them to give us their smartphones or the tracks of their video games from day to day. the following day. And if some of them drop them for weeks or even months, you’re in luck. I’d say we’ve got about half of the grade 11 phones right now, until exams.
Birbalsingh was appointed chairman of the commission last October, with the mission of advising the government on obstacles to social mobility caused by regional disparities, employment and education.
Addressing the Birmingham conference, Birbalsingh noted that it had been 12 years since she spoke there at the Conservative Party conference, where she made headlines with her comments about the lack of discipline in public schools.
She said her commission was looking at how parents can be better advised on how to raise their children, in order to overcome the early onset of disadvantage.
“We at the commission are looking at what families can do before going to school. There are a lot of families who don’t realize they should be talking to their toddlers,” Birbalsingh said.
“A lot of families don’t because they don’t know. So I would really like to try to make sure that families can find out about this stuff, how much they should read to their child, and so on.
Comparing the parenting advice to the well-known message that a healthy diet includes five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, Birbalsingh said, “If I ever tweet about the kinds of things families should do at home, I’ll sometimes get a response of, ‘Well, it’s not my job to teach my child, it’s the school’s job.’
“And they don’t realize how many families are teaching their kids all the time and how their kids are competing with those other kids. And that there are many children who start school and already know how to read or are certainly on the way to being able to read.
Asked about the government’s leveling target for 90 per cent of children in England to meet expected standards in maths and literacy by 2030, Birbalsingh said: ‘Whether or not you get 90 per cent of children to meet the requirements of Literacy by the time they go to secondary school is a very good idea, but are we really going to do it? »
She also told headteachers they should try to ignore much of the comments from Ofsted and the Department for Education. “Just put on the blinders and ignore it and do what’s right for your kids and do what’s right for your school,” she said.