New headteacher bans mobile phones to improve communication skills

Oakwood School Head Teacher Mr Potten (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-151210-173508008
Oakwood School Head Teacher Mr Potten (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-151210-173508008

A headteacher has banned mobile phones from the playground to improve students’ communication skills.

Simon Potten took the reins at Oakwood, Horley, in September and said he was looking forward to “taking it to great places”.

Oakwood School Head Teacher Mr Potten (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-151210-173533008

Oakwood School Head Teacher Mr Potten (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-151210-173533008

His instructions to his staff were simple – not to accept second best from the students – while the youngsters themselves faced stricter rules relating to uniforms.

When it came to the use of mobile phones, Mr Potten said: “The rule is very simple – they should not be seen or heard during the school day other than in a controlled learning environment.”

Explaining his reasons, he said: “This is all based on the fact that employers now bemoan the fact that students leave school without communication skills.”

Safety was another concern and the need to protect the children from online bullying. The response from the students was positive and, after an initial period of staff having to confiscate phones, feedback suggested that, although students didn’t like the rule, they understood the need for it.

This is all based on the fact that employers now bemoan the fact that students leave school without communication skills

Simon Potten, headteacher

Oakwood has been improving steadily since coming out of special measures in 2012 and Mr Potten said the school’s potential was one of the things which attracted him.

Having been responsible for raising achievement in schools for the past 10 years, he said: “I think schools that stand still do so at their own cost these days. You have to keep evolving and developing and improving.”

His ambition for improvement included the school’s GCSE results. This year, Oakwood saw 55 per cent of its students earn five A*-Cs, and Mr Potten said optimism was high that next year’s results would be “significantly better”.

Like many schools, Oakwood found its results adversely affected by changes to the grade boundaries, particularly in English. But Mr Potten said there were one or two other subject areas which he would look to improve.

Outside of school, he said he was “heartened” by Oakwood’s existing links with the community and intended to build on them. As well as plans to take part in this year’s Remembrance ceremony and next year’s carnival, a new parent-teachers forum was set up with plans to re-establish the Parent Teachers Association.

As he looked forward to his first year at Oakwood’s helm, Mr Potten said: “I am really, really enjoying my time here. They talk about honeymoon periods but I don’t think it’s a honeymoon period, I think we’ve hit the ground running.

“I am supported by a really good leadership team. They are all very skilled, very talented in their various areas of expertise. I think I’m excited by the potential of the school and I’m looking forward to taking it to great places.”

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