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The Oamaru secondary school has reduced its traditional one-hour lunch break to 40 minutes and next term will introduce a ban on mobile phones.
Mr Paterson hopes the changes will improve the school’s educational outcomes.
"Unfortunately, overall our NCEA results for 2019 were the most disappointing they have been over the past three years and this has led to a great deal of reflection," Mr Paterson said.
Pass rates were 58.8% for Level 1, 66.3% for Level 2 and 40.7% for Level 3.
The enrolment-based results system did not reflect well on a state school like Waitaki Boys’ High School, as many pupils left throughout the year for employment and apprenticeship opportunities, Mr Paterson said.
"There are different pathways for our guys — and we’re proud of that," he said.
However, he acknowledged there was still a "large group of boys who have been underachieving".
After consultation with staff and the school community, the board of trustees last week ratified a ban on mobile phones at school, to be introduced next term.
Pupils would be required to have their phones switched off and put away from 8.40am to 3.05pm, and if parents or caregivers needed to contact pupils during the school day, they could leave a message at the office, Mr Paterson said.
Until now, pupils have been allowed to use phones at interval and lunch breaks and in class for educational purposes, at the teacher's discretion.
"Over time we’ve noticed that the boys have become more and more inclined to go on their devices, particularly at interval and lunchtime," Mr Paterson said.
The main reason for the ban was to remove distractions from the classrooms.
"We just really want to treasure the school day, from 8.40am to 3.05pm, as the time for teaching and learning.
"We also think it’s going to make for better social relationships.
"Personally, I believe it’s going to be a game-changer, in terms of our culture of educational achievement."
Feedback from pupils had been mixed and he expected some would struggle to go without their phones for six hours.
"Most of the boys I’ve spoken to are OK with it; they can see the bigger picture," he said.
"It’s going to be a tough culture for a lot of boys to shift, but . . . we’ll be providing support."
A shortened lunch break was introduced at the start of the school year to combat bad behaviour and the transition had been "seamless", he said.
"We were dealing with increased incidences of inappropriate behaviour occurring during the second half of lunchtime, and secondly that a significant number of boys were simply playing on their mobile phones," he said.
The school’s lunch break is now from 1.25pm-2.05pm.