UK teachers oppose a blanket ban on the use of mobile phones in schools across England by the Education Secretary, saying such measures could only worsen pupils’ behavior and create problems for teachers enforcing the new guidelines, Daily Mail reported.
The new guidance announced on Monday, October 2, by Education Secretary Gillian Keegan recommends banning mobile phone use in school during lessons and break times.
“New guidance from the Department for Education will back head teachers in banning mobile phone use throughout the school day, including at break times, to tackle disruptive behavior and online bullying while boosting attention during lessons,” the press release published by the Department for Education reads in part, adding that the move will support government’s work to raise standards in school to boost students’ focus and minimize distractions.
“This ban supports the hard work of teachers and education staff – and continues to build on government’s reforms backed up by the highest level of funding for schools in history, in real terms, of nearly £60 billion by 2024-25.”
Students’ Safety and Focus in Lessons A Priority
The move, which followed the United Nation’s warning on the potential risks of smartphones in schools, was also backed by the government’s data showing 29% of high school students reportedly use mobile phones in most or all lessons.
“This is a fantastic move forward for ensuring that students are able to work, learn, and grow in a place free from the distracting influence of mobile phones,” said Tom Bennett, school behavior advisor, adding that schools that effected the ban earlier reported a significant improvement in student’s safety, happiness, and focus in learning.
However, the guidelines will include limited exemptions for students who need their mobile phones with them in school due to medical reasons, as stated in the press release.
The Need for a Broader Approach
Earlier, Patrick Roach, secretary general of the NASUWT teaching union, warned that the behavior crisis would worsen if the government introduces a blanket ban on the use of mobile phones by pupils in school.
According to Roach, the behavior crisis was attributed to “The lack of joined-up solutions, multi-agency working and properly resourced behavior support are just some of the systemic factors making a challenging situation worse.”
Roach also said that teachers needed more support in dealing with problems caused by the use of social media by school-going pupils, adding that “abusive use of mobile phones” is a broader problem that extends beyond school premises, requesting better government support for schools and families when problems arise.
Geoff Barton, secretary general of the Association of School and College Leaders, called the proposed new guidelines “a policy which isn’t needed for something that isn’t a problem,” adding it was meant only to “grab headlines” in Conservative Party conference.
The Ban ‘Will Cause More Problems Than It Solves’
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the school leaders’ Union, NAHT, also said that schools need guidance on “complex issues” such as “how best to treat transgender children,” promised more than a year ago, instead of the recommended guidelines that could cause “more problems than it solves.”
According to Whiteman, banning the use of mobile phones in school will not improve the situation, as pupils will become more secretive in using their phones, making it “more difficult to spot and address.” Whiteman also added that the policy would face opposition from parents since some students may need mobile phones for other genuine reasons, including when traveling to school.
Although it was up to individual teachers to create policies guiding mobile phone use in the schools, the newly recommended guidelines are binding. Initially, some schools allowed pupils to carry mobile phones to school and keep them in their lockers or bags when they got to classrooms.
“If schools fail to implement the new guidance, the government will consider legislating in the future to make the guidance statutory,” the Department for Education warned in the press release.
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This article was produced and syndicated by TPR Teaching.
Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.