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School life

New policy boosts student wellbeing

Ensuring students are provided with the best environment to learn and flourish has always been a top priority at ACG Strathallan.

2020 at ACG Strathallan looks set to be a lot more social thanks to a new policy banning the use of mobile phones and other portable electronic devices, except for educational purposes.

The restrictions – which take effect from when students enter the school gates in the morning until they leave at the end of each day – come amidst increasing concern about the impact of excessive screen use. Several other schools nationwide have adopted similar policies.

“Mobile phones and other devices such as tablets, smart watches and laptops have become part of our lives, but in our school environment they are often inhibiting students’ social interaction, and they’ve become a source of distraction inside and outside of class,” says  ACG Strathallan Assistant Principal of the College, Alice Hamilton.

“The research is also clear that personal devices can create high levels of anxiety due to constant social media use that’s not always positive for our students. We firmly believe that giving students a break from constant updates and messages will not only improve academic progress and outcomes but will also support safety and benefit their social skills, fostering an environment of positive communication and interaction with peers and adults.”

The new policy has been welcomed by parents and students alike.

“Last year we had a group of students sign a petition asking us to ban devices as they felt it had a considerable negative impact on the socialisation of our students. Parents have also applauded us for making the decision to introduce the new policy.”

Just a few weeks into term one and Alice says the benefits are already clear.

“It’s been exciting to watch how successful the transition has been. Now that we don’t have students on devices, the school at lunchtime and interval is noisier and there is so much activity happening, from students playing basketball, to card games, to reading and joining in the many activities we offer.”

Setting students up in the best environment to learn and flourish has always been a top priority at ACG Strathallan and last year saw the launch of a Wellbeing Programme focussing on issues such as kindness, gratitude, mental health and building connections. ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’ was introduced, and 2020 will see this work continue as tutors are tasked with delivering programmes designed to promote wellness in different ways.

This term a targeted Year 7 and 8 programme led by Dean, Clinton Thomas, encourages students to make connections with each other and themselves, while term two will see the introduction of the Kia Kaha programme, developed by the New Zealand Police to provide students with tools to develop respectful relationships and ensure that Strathallan remains an inclusive and bully-free environment. Also new for 2020 is a Peer Mediation pilot programme delivered by not-for-profit organisation, the Peace Foundation.

“We want to introduce this to add another level of support for our younger students and ensure that every student has someone they can speak to if they’re having a challenging time and don’t necessarily want to approach an adult,” says Alice.

A school counsellor, student leadership team and dedicated learning support department offer additional support while regular visits from Attitude (the youth education division of Parenting Place) helps students navigate everything from cyber safety to stress management.

Says Alice: “At ACG Strathallan we believe it’s crucial to develop a strong pastoral system to support our young people because if students’ mental health is in jeopardy, they’ll never perform their best in the classroom or their chosen co-curricular pursuits. Wellbeing and student achievement go hand in hand and we make student – and staff – wellbeing an absolute priority in all we do and the decisions we make.”