Mobiles and Exam Results

Posted in SSZ Briefings  ·  July 5th 2016

Mobile Phones – to ban or not to ban?

There is no question in this day and age: we are surrounded by technological distractions. With more than 90% of teenagers now owning a mobile phone, it is quite likely that a ping might be going off every few minutes, pushing some sort of message to us, generally from a mobile device – and not just the solicited email or text message from a friend, but a new wave of notifications from the likes of Instagram, Facebook, software updates, and so on.
The big question for educators of course is, do mobile phones help or hinder learning? Should parents allow their children to take them to school? Should schools allow them, ban them, or require them to be handed in on arrival?
This question is a live one for schools, for parents, and – as we ourselves have seen – for students.

Peaches improves her grades without her mobile!

For the last seven years, Study Skills Zone have been encouraging students preparing for exams to rid themselves of distractions when revising. We picked up with Peaches, a student at Holly Lodge 11-19 Science College, who decided to put our advice to the test. You can find out how she got on, in this short 2-minute video below.

New LSE Report

Now, a team of economists claims to have found some hard evidence. And their discovery may be seen as controversial. Their 43-page report (May 2015) has concluded that if you want to boost children’s academic performance, then ban mobile phones in school!
Academics at the London School of Economics have found that there was a 6.4% improvement in the test scores of 16-year-olds after schools banned mobile phones.
Even more interesting is the finding that the ban had a greater positive impact on students with SEN and those on free school meals, while having a negligible effect on high achievers. The lowest achievers gained twice as much as average students. The authors claim that a ban may therefore reduce educational inequalities – and at no cost.
“Furthermore, this effect is driven by the most disadvantaged and underachieving pupils. Students in the lowest quartile of prior achievement gain 14.23% of a standard deviation, whilst students in the top quartile are neither positively nor negatively affected by a phone ban.” 1
This research was carried out in Manchester, Birmingham, Leicester and London schools before and after bans were introduced.
1. “Ill Communication: Technology, Distraction & Student Performance”, by Louis-Philippe Beland and Richard Murphy. A Centre for Economic Performance (LSE) Discussion Paper No 1350, May 2015, page 3
Please click here to download a copy of the full report.


This briefing has been written for Study Skills Zone by Ged Ward. Please feel free to pass it on to other colleagues who you think might find it interesting. If you have missed previous briefings, especially on the ‘growth mindset’ and would like to receive them, please just click here.
Study Skills Zone is passionate about ‘motivating students to learn’.

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