Should mobile phones be banned from schools?


The chief inspector of Ofsted is backing headteachers who ban mobile phones from schools to prevent bad behaviour.

In a speech, Amanda Spielman blamed technology for causing ‘low level disruption’ and said the case for allowing mobile phones in the classroom was ‘dubious at best’.

Ms Spielman’s comments came after Culture Secretary Matt Hancock called on headteachers to ban mobile phones, saying he admired those who do not allow personal electronic devices to be used during the school day.

There is no law in the UK prohibiting phone usage and the Department for Education says it is a decision for each school.

But across Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire, many schools take the approach that while students should be allowed to bring mobile phones into school with parents’ permission, they should not be used in the classroom.

Teachers say mobile phones can distract students

Charlotte Slattery, deputy headteacher of St Joseph’s Catholic College, in Trent Vale, said: “We have a policy that there are no mobile phones allowed.

“We understand that parents might want to contact them after school, but during school hours they should be in their bag. They are not allowed to have them out at all and all the pupils know that.

“They would be distracting, and then there is social media and the difficulties we have with that.”

Ormiston Horizon Academy, in Chell.
Ormiston Horizon Academy, in Chell.

At Ormiston Horizon Academy, in Chell, teachers and staff are told to keep their phones off or on silent, apart from during breaks or at lunchtime.

Policy guidelines also warn that teachers ‘should be aware that there may be occasions where pupils could provoke staff to gain a particular reaction which may then be recorded’.

Regarding the pupils, the school’s policy states: “Mobile devices should be switched off and kept out of sight during classroom lessons, unless using the device as part of a lesson with the permission of their class teacher.”

At Trentham Academy ‘mobile phones and personal electronic equipment are not specifically banned, but must be used responsibly’.

The school’s policy states that mobile devices can be used in communal areas during breaks or lunchtime – but not to make or receive calls – and must not be used at other times ‘except at the direction of teachers’.

Some schools have banned mobile phones

At Moorside High School, in Werrington, children are allowed to bring mobile phones into school ‘to protect them from everyday risks involving personal security and safety’.

But the school’s policy document insists: “Mobile phones should be switched off and kept out of sight during classroom lessons and while in the school building. Exceptions may be permitted only in exceptional circumstances.”

Mother-of-three Ruth Dobson, aged 46, of Alsager, said: “I think older children should be allowed to take mobile phones into school, just for their own safety after they leave school. But I don’t think they should have them turned on during lessons.”

Father-of-three Andy Parsons, aged 52, from Kidsgrove, said: “There’s no need to use a phone during the school day and they should be turned off. But I don’t see a problem with children having phones with them for when they finish school.”

Ms Spielman, chief inspector of Ofsted, told delegates at the Festival of Education at Wellington College, Berkshire: “There’s no doubt that technology has made the challenge of low-level disruption even worse, which is why I also support recent calls to back heads who have decided that the way to improve behaviour is to ban mobile phones in their schools.

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Should mobile phones be banned from schools?


“I’m not the target audience, but nevertheless I am yet to be convinced of the educational benefits of all-day access to Snapchat and the like.”

Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Schools do not allow pupils to use mobile phones during lessons, other than sometimes for specific educational activities. Some headteachers make the decision to allow their use at break time, and some don’t. Again, this is a matter of professional judgement on what works best in their context.”

Culture Secretary Matt Hancock.
Culture Secretary Matt Hancock.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Culture Secretary Mr Hancock said: “While it is up to individual schools to decide rather than government, I admire headteachers who do not allow mobiles to be used during the school day.”

A group of Tory MPs has also urged a ban on mobiles during the school day, saying there is evidence it can have ‘a beneficial effect on pupils’ ability to learn’.

A Snapchat spokesman said: “Snapchat allows you to express yourself and communicate freely with close friends and family. We think that’s a good thing.

“We don’t recommend that young people use it all day while at school and, as with any technology, parents and teachers should have regular conversations with young people about the appropriate use of technology.”

Snapchat is not intended for children under the age of 13, the spokesman said.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said the Government supported the right of headteachers to use their powers to ban mobile phones.

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