‘Leave mobile phone bans up to headteachers’, says education secretary

Group of school students using mobile phones
by Hayley Pearce | 4 Feb 2019

Damian Hinds rejects calls for blanket phone ban

The education secretary, Damian Hinds, has said the decision to ban mobile phones in schools should be left to headteachers.

But schools minister Nick Gibb disagrees, and told the BBC: “My own view is that schools should ban their pupils from bringing smartphones into school or the classroom.”

In a recent interview with the Guardian, Mr Hinds said that pupils’ mobile phone use was a “complex issue”, but he supports any heads who wish to introduce a ban.

He added: “We have a system where, rightly, we want headteachers to be in charge of schools. They tend to know the schools best and they know the kids best.”

Complexities

The government recently unveiled new health, relationships and sex education guidance for schools in England, which includes advice on limiting screen-time and smartphone use, as well as the effects on sleep, online safety and access to pornography.

In France, there is a national phone ban in state schools. When Mr Hinds was asked by the Guardian if he would support a similar approach in the UK, he said: “I wouldn’t want to. What I want to do is stand foursquare behind the headteacher who bans them.

“If you think about some of the complexities – if you just have a ban, what do you do about kids who are in school but after hours? Or what do you do on a school trip? Or what do you do with the child who has particular medical needs, where they might have to make an emergency call? How do you deal with that?

“If you’ve got the school making the rules – and by the way schools have always made the rules, including about banning things and confiscating things – they can allow for those difficult cases and make those adjustments.

“It’s worth saying that of course most schools do have restrictions on mobile phones, and in many cases a total ban, and I absolutely support the schools that decide to do that.”

No 'one size fits all'

The government’s policy around school’s having autonomy over their own rules regarding mobile phones was supported by the National Association for Head Teachers.

Sarah Hannafin, senior policy adviser for the NAHT, said: “Mobile phone bans certainly work for some schools but there isn’t one policy that will work for all schools.

“Outright banning mobile phones can cause more problems than it solves, driving phone use underground and making problems less visible and obvious for schools to tackle.”

Distraction or necessity?

TSR member AnnieGakusei said: “My school banned phones when I was in Year 13 and I was honestly really glad they did. They're a horrible distraction, prevent social skills from developing, and they encourage cyberbullying.”

And mhsc says they are not necessary, as proven by all those who went to school before mobiles existed: “Phones should definitely be banned from schools, and anyone who cites nonsense about kids ‘needing’ them is talking nonsense – those of us who went to school when having a mobile phone was a novelty certainly managed just fine, as did all of those before us when mobiles simply didn't exist.

“If parents want their kids to be contactable before or after school, I'm sure schools can provide facilities to store phones during the day. If parents need to contact their kids or vice versa, just do what every other kid in recent history did – contact reception."

But Autistic Merit says that mobile phones “shouldn't be banned outright as they can be useful in emergencies and students will bring them in anyway so it would be more trouble than it's worth enforcing an outright ban.

“In lessons, they should be switched off unless a note is presented to the teacher signed by a parent to say that they have an urgent reason to have their phone on.”

And 04MR17 thinks schools should be realistic in the modern world, saying: "We live in an age with this technology, which we are often using in the workplace. Why should schools ignore this and pretend that phones don't exist by banning them?"

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