Mobile phone use in schools. A guide for parents.

Last Updated: 19 Feb 24
Four school children looking at their mobile phones

In an effort to minimize disruptions and enhance classroom behaviour, the government has issued new guidance to schools in England regarding the use of mobile phones during the school day. This move aims to establish a consistent approach across schools, as the government emphasises the need to reset the social norm against mobile phone usage throughout the school day.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan stated on BBC Breakfast that the guidance seeks to provide consistency and eradicate the presence of mobile phones in schools. The guidance outlines various approaches, including a complete ban on phones on school premises or rules requiring phones to be handed in at the start of the day. Schools may also permit students to keep their phones but under strict conditions that they are neither used, seen, nor heard during the day.

The guidance stresses that school leaders should develop and implement policies tailored to their school's individual context and needs. It highlights the legal duty of schools to ensure students' welfare and asserts that restricting phone use during the day is essential for teachers to effectively deliver the curriculum.

According to the government, a survey of secondary school pupils revealed that 29% reported using phones inappropriately during lessons. However, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) union expressed scepticism, stating that the guidance is unlikely to have a discernible effect, as most schools already have restrictions on mobile phone use.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL union, urged the government to focus on more pressing issues such as funding, special needs, and improving school infrastructure. The announcement coincides with calls for changes to the law by Esther Ghey, the mother of murdered teenager Brianna Ghey, who advocates for restrictions on children's access to social media apps on their phones.

While the government emphasises the need for consistency in managing mobile phone use, critics argue that more attention should be given to addressing online platforms that expose children to disturbing content. Despite debates around mobile phone use, there is no current consideration for introducing phones designed specifically for under-16s.

As discussions continue, the spotlight remains on the broader challenges facing schools, including the safety of children online, funding concerns, and the overall well-being of students.

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