“It still kind of sucks, but I can see the reasons why they did it,” the 17-year-old says.
The school’s year 10 captain, Madeleine Gwynne, is more effusive. The ban is helping her and her classmates study without distraction and has sparked an increase in class discussion.
“Normally you would see people just looking down at the table and you know they have their phone but now everyone’s looking up,” she says.
The ban on mobile phones in Victorian government schools took effect at the start of the school year.
Narre Warren South principal Rob Duncan says students have accepted the change remarkably quickly: the school has confiscated just three phones from 2400 students.
“They’ve embraced it, I wouldn’t say wholeheartedly and enthusiastically, but they’ve accepted that this is the way things are now.”
If there has been any pushback against Victoria’s new mobile phone ban, it has come from an unexpected quarter.
“The biggest challenge for us has been some of the parents, who want to be able to contact their kids 24/7,” Mr Duncan says.
The school received a $150,000 state government grant to upgrade school lockers and install security cameras so it could enforce the ban.
Brauer College, a government secondary school in Warrnambool, used its grant money to take a more novel approach.
It set up lockable electronic pouch stations at all seven school entry and exit points.
Students must slip their phone into a pouch and lock it first thing, but are permitted to carry it with them.
They cannot unlock the pouch until they exit the school at home time.
Principal Jane Boyle said that in time, the pouch system would give teachers the discretion to allow students to use their phones in class for defined learning purposes.
She said the biggest noticeable change was during class breaks.
“There is a lovely calmness around the school when you walk around. We had year sevens playing downball with the year 12s yesterday lunchtime,” she said.
So far just two students have been asked to hand over their phones for using them.
Others appear to have found ingenious ways to get around the ban. The Age has seen footage on social media of two Melbourne schoolboys, grinning at their success in programming a Nintendo game console so that they can text each other.
The Andrews government announced in June its intention to ban mobile phones in all state primary and secondary schools to help combat distraction and cyberbullying.
Many Victorian schools, both government and non-government, had already introduced phone bans.
But experts in education and technology have cautioned against viewing the mobile phone ban as a cure-all for student distraction and even warned that some of the learning benefits of technology are at risk.
Therese Keane, Associate Professor at Swinburne University, accused the Andrews government of policy laziness.
“It requires very little effort on their behalf,” she said.
“The decision is skewed towards placating teachers who cannot effectively integrate and manage technology in their classrooms and parents who would rather someone else do the policing for them.”
Adam Carey is Education Editor. He joined The Age in 2007 and has previously covered state politics, transport, general news, the arts and food.