Students need phones -- lots and lots of telephones

Last week's suggestion for improving schools talked about the need to provide private telephone use for teachers, particularly in line with their need to keep parents informed about the progress of their children.

But pupils, too, need access to a telephone. Of course, they don't require their own in a private office space. But they need to be able to have ready access to a relatively private phone to keep parents and guardians abreast of their needs.

Primary schools with fewer than 500 pupils could possibly "do" with one phone per hundred pupils. But for older youngsters, the ratio might better be one phone for every 50 or even for every 25 pupils.

Recent school studies have shown how important it is to the morale of the pupils for them to have access to a telephone. For many, such a service turns out to be one of the most significant positive aspects they note about their school.

The lack of phones in so many schools is seen as one more negative factor -- as a kind of "meanness" on the part of the school authorities.

And anyone who has monitored phone requests in the central office of a suburban US public high school or an urban British comprehensive school can testify to the very uncomfortable atmosphere such systems induce.

It's possible that there are some schools so deep in discipline problems that telephones would only be one more target of vandalism -- and here the need may be to find a way to control use of the phones so they wouldn't be rendered inoperable after each repair session.

But most school communities would be so delighted to have free access to telephones as the need arises that they would probably be one of the more protected items in the entire school inventory.

Next week: A community resource file

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