the social experiment in East London that’s paying dividends

In May, Rahman predicted that those students who stayed off social media might achieve grades a point higher than predicted, but the impact has been “incredible” and many students achieved two grades higher. “To be honest, we’re not surprised,” he says. “You can’t attribute it [solely] to social media, but it definitely impacted their focus, and each of them we spoke to said they had used their time better.”

It also had an impact outside the classroom. Parents told Rahman that their evening social time with their teenage children had improved. And perhaps most telling is the fact that it “significantly improved” the issue of bullying, he says. Before, “you had groups of students creating a group [on Snapchat] and saying negative things about each other… Whilst they behaved really well, as soon as they left school they were having all these issues [online].” 

A similar scheme will run for the next academic year. “The current year 11s already started it this term,” he says. “We didn’t even ask who wants to, we said, ‘we’re all doing it and let’s see who sticks to it.’”

It will also be rolled out across the Community Schools Trust, which runs secondary schools in London’s Hackney and Forest Gate, as well as a technical college in Norfolk. “If they can spend less time on [social media] and more time on their studies, clearly the impact is that they get better outcomes,” says Elliott. 

Newham is fast gaining a reputation for excellence in its state schools. In 2021 Cumberland set up a “prestigious college programme” and won nearly £1 million worth of scholarships to private sixth forms. Nearby Brampton Manor secured 54 Oxbridge offers in 2021, while Newham Collegiate Sixth Form got 29. This is despite having one of the highest rates of deprivation in the UK: almost half of young people aged 11-19 in the borough live in poverty. 

“There is poverty, but the schools are feeding off each other in terms of ambition,” says Elliott. “[The] children want to do well, and they are from deprived backgrounds, so what we’ve got to do is provide them with that wraparound care, but overall we’ve got to provide that challenge. We’re quite a strict Trust, but the outcomes speak for themselves… Poverty isn’t a barrier,” he says.

They may have logged back onto Snapchat for the summer holidays, but some students have found the experiment has changed how they use their phones for good. “I am not really addicted to my phone any more,” says Abuka. “[I’ve] even started pre-learning A-Level maths.”

What do you think of Cumberland Community’s social media blackout? Let us know in the comments

Recommended For You