No internet, no television and no films: Welcome to Morden’s tech-free Acorn School

A unique independent school in Morden has banned pupils from using technology in school AND at home in a bid to give them the best possible education.

The Acorn School in Morden Hall Park bans the internet until students reach 16, and computers are only permitted for school work for over 14s.

Children are not allowed to watch television until the age of 12 – even then only documentaries that have been approved by parents – and films are off limits until the age of 14.

Andrew Thorne, 50, chair of the boards of directors at The Acorn School, said: “We want our students to be active creators rather than passive consumers.”

The school branched off from The Acorn School in Gloucestershire, which was founded Graham Whiting in 1991, and charges £11,000 annual fees and does not make pupils sit state exams.

Currently, it has students aged 3 – 14. Just over 20 attend the kindergarten, and the lower and middle school hosts 24.

The school aims to teach the basics first – reading and writing with pen and paper – before slowly introducing technology.

Dr Thorne stresses that the computer is an additional tool that children should not be ‘enslaved’ to.

A study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released earlier this month called for a new approach to utilise technology in schools.

It stated: “School systems need to find more effective ways to integrate technology into teaching and learning to provide educators with learning environments that support 21st century pedagogies [teaching methods].”

The report found that students who use computers moderately at school benefit more than those who use them rarely.

However students who use computers frequently during their education have much worse learning outcomes.

Despite the ubiquity of Facebook and Twitter among young people, social media is not looked upon favourably at Acorn school.

Dr Thorne believes that it can have a devastating impact on young children because unlike adults, children cannot just block out abusive comments online.

He said before children approach this corner of the internet, they need a greater understanding of why people write hurtful things.

Dr Thorne is also not concerned that the school’s students will be unprepared for the tech-heavy world of work.

“How hard is it to use Google?” he said.

The school aims to ‘future proof’ students and equip with the basic skills that will never become obsolete rather than technology that may not exist in ten years.

Pupils at Acorn School learn in a different way to those who follow the national curriculum at other schools.

Dr Thorne believes the education system is ‘focused purely on exam results’ and that means children in traditional schools have a very narrow field of learning.

Instead children in the original Acorn school in Nailsworth wrote dissertations and submitted them straight to university tutors.

The topics ranged from medicine to the arts, and many pupils eventually gained first class degrees.

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