New students at Eton, the poshest of Britain’s elite private schools, will not be allowed smartphones

London — Eton College, arguably the poshest, most elite boarding school in Britain, is banning incoming students from having smartphones.  

Eton, located near the royal palace in Windsor, just west of London, is renowned for its academic excellence. Notable alumni include Princes William and Harry, as well as novelist George Orwell, James Bond creator Ian Fleming and a long list of former prime ministers, including recent leaders Boris Johnson and David Cameron.  

The ban, which is due to take effect in September, comes after the U.K. government issued guidance backing school principals who decide to ban the use of cellphones during the school day in an effort to minimize disruption and improve classroom behavior.

Winter weather Jan 10th 2024
Eton College, west of London, is seen in a Jan. 10, 2024 file photo.

Andrew Matthews/PA Images/Getty

Parents of first-year students at Eton — where tuition exceeds $60,000 per year — were informed of the changes in a letter, which said  that incoming 13-year-old boarders should have their smart devices taken home after their SIM cards are transferred to offline Nokia phones provided by the school, which can only make calls and send simple text messages. 

Eton’s previous rules on smartphones required first-year students to hand over their devices overnight. 

„Eton routinely reviews our mobile phone and devices policy to balance the benefits and challenges that technology brings to schools,“ a spokesperson for the school told CBS News on Tuesday, adding that those joining in Year 9, essentially the equivalent of freshman year in high school for American students, „will receive a ‚brick‘ phone for use outside the school day, as well as a school-issued iPad to support academic study.“

Eton v Harrow cricket match, Lords
Eton College boys celebrate the first wicket of the day during the Eton v Harrow cricket match at Lords Cricket Ground, in a May 12, 2023 file photo in London, England.

Tom Jenkins/Getty

The spokesperson added that „age-appropriate controls remain in place for other year groups.“ 

According to Ofcom, the U.K. government’s communications regulator, 97% of children have their own cellphone by the age of 12. 

In the U.S., a recent survey published by Common Sense Media found around 91% of children own a smartphone by the age of 14. Similar policies on smartphones have been introduced in schools around the U.S., varying from complete bans to restricted use in specific times or areas. The 2021-2022 school year saw about 76% of schools prohibit the non-academic use of smartphones, according to the U.S. Department of Education

Bans have been met with mixed reactions, as some argue these personal devices can also have curricular benefits, such as allowing students to engage in live surveys or access content and data during lessons. Some parents have also raised concerns that phone bans could prevent their children from reaching them during potential emergencies.

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