‘Mobile-free’ classrooms give Danish schoolkids focus

Schools in both southern Denmark and Copenhagen say that banning mobile phones in class has helped pupils to become more focused and relaxed in class and more sociable outside it.

‘Mobile-free’ classrooms give Danish schoolkids focus
File photo: Iris/Scanpix

At an increasing number of schools around Denmark, pupils have been required to leave their mobile phones in cupboards for the duration of the school day, reports broadcaster DR.

Most Danish schools allow pupils to carry their mobile phones with them in class and parents often call their children during recess times or send SMS messages during the day. Teachers are allowed to confiscate mobile phones during lessons if they consider them to be a distraction.

But now teachers, pupils and parents at a number of Danish schools have agreed to go mobile free during the school day.

“Some people say that students are capable of multitasking and being on Facebook at the same time as having mathematics lessons, but nobody can be 100 per cent concentrated on two things,” Lyreskov School’s head teacher Jan Sønderby told DR.

Sønderby said that the effects of the scheme were clearly evident in the school’s classrooms.

“It has changed the attention there is with regard to lessons, where the idea is that (pupils) learn something,” Sønderby said.

At Nørrebro Park School in Copenhagen, where mobiles have been absent from seventh grade classrooms since last September, a tranquility has descended over pupils, says head teacher Henrik Wilhelmsen.

“It has created a sense of calm in the year group,” Wilhelmsen told Jyllands-Posten.

“‘Mobiles can cause conflicts, for example when pupils send silly messages to each other over various types of social media. We don’t have this any more. The conflicts we have now are normal, ‘old fashioned’ conflicts where there’s a face-to-face disagreement that’s easier to manage,” Wilhelmsen continued.

Vibeke Domar, head teacher at Kongehøj School in the town of Aabenraa near the border with Germany, said that the school ban on mobiles also changed the way pupils spent their break times.

“The pupils have been very busy spending their breaks on other things, so we have reintroduced the concept of ‘play time’, we have bought footballs and we go out and spend time together,” Domar told DR.

While many of the staff at Nørrebro Park school agree that mobile phones can be disruptive, others value them as a learning resource and way of improving I.T. skills, so debate about Nørrebro Park school’s long-term mobile policy is still ongoing, Wilhemsen said to Jyllands-Posten.

Ninth grader Jens Vase, who is also chairperson for the Danish School Students Association (Danske Skoleelever), told Jyllands-Posten that he saw lack of concentration in class as being down to uninspiring teaching rather than the distraction of mobile phones.

“There was also problems with concentration before the mobile phone was around. Back then it was just the window that could be stared out of, so it’s not a new problem,” said Vase.

“The way forward is not necessarily to demonize the mobile phone and take it away from pupils. Instead, lessons should be structured in a way that makes them more exciting for pupils,” Vase continued.


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What you need to know about sending your child back to school in Denmark

Denmark on Monday announced plans to open kindergartens and schools next week, along with lifting a range of other coronavirus restrictions. Here's what you need to know.

What you need to know about sending your child back to school in Denmark
Year five at a municipal school in Rungsted. Photo: Thomas Lekfeldt/Ritzau Scanpix

When are schools and kindergartens reopening? 

Kindergartens and the first five forms in primary schools are set to reopen on April 15, which will give teachers and other staff one day of preparation after the Easter Monday bank holiday.

But on Wednesday, Health Minister Pernille Rosenkratz-Theil conceded that some schools and some municipalities may need more time to prepare, so it's best to check with your local school. “They will not be allowed to reopen until they can be sure that the rules are being complied with,” she said. “It doesn't matter if it's one date or another one.”

Is it compulsory to send my children back to kindergarten or school? 

Sending your child to a kindergartens is not compulsory in Denmark unless you live in a so-called ghetto district. But it is compulsory to attend school from the age of 5-6 until the age of 15-16. If you are worried about sending your child, to school, however, few questions will be asked if you inform them that either the child, or a member of your household is sick with coronavirus-like symptoms. 

What do I have to do as a parent to reduce the risk of spreading infection? 

Do not allow your child to bring toys from home to kindergarten or school, and make sure that your child has washed their hands thoroughly before arriving on the premises. 

Your child's school or kindergarten is likely to contact you with guidelines on picking up and delivering children. This will require you to arrive at a precise time to reduce the risk of crowding. 

Rather than entering the premises and helping children dress, children are likely to be got ready by staff so that parents can pick them up outside the institution.  

When picking up or delivering your child, avoid any physical contact with staff, other parents, or children who are not your own, and try to maintain a distance from others of at least two metres. 

Do I need to make sure my child sticks to social distancing guidelines? 

No. That is the responsibility of staff at their school or kindergarten must try to ensure. “We do not make guidelines for children. We make guidelines for adults,” Søren Brostrøm, the head of the Danish Health Authority, stressed in a press conference on Wednesday. “We know at the health authorities that children are children.” 
Children will be made to play in smaller groups, will be made to wash their hands frequently, and there will be extra staff employed at schools and kindergartens to make sure they are run in as safe a way as possible. 

When should I keep my child home? 

According to the Danish Health Authority, children with “even mild symptoms like colds” should stay home until at least 48 hours until the symptoms have ceased. If this happens, you should inform staff at the school or daycare.

If your child belongs to a risk group, suffering from diabetes, obesity, a blood disease, or if they have had a transplant operation, or are being given drugs that suppress their immune system, you should discuss whether it is safe to return to school or kindergarten with their doctor, and if it is, you should work with teaching staff to draw up a plan. 

Even if a member of a child's household is within a special risk group, the child can still return to school.

What if someone else in the household is sick with coronavirus-like symptoms? 

According to the Danish Health Authority, you can send a child to school or kindergarten even if a parent or sibling is sick, although of course the sick parent cannot fetch or delivery them. 

Isn't this a crazy experiment putting all our children at risk? 

Not according to Brostrøm.

“This is not an experiment by gradually opening kindergartens and schools,” he said during the press conference on Wednesday. “We are not using children, young people and teachers as guinea pigs. It is our clear assessment that this is safe in terms of health. This is not an experiment.” 

The official guidelines for the controlled reopening of kindergartens can be found here, and here is a Google Translation of the document.  







you stay home until you are well