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Mobile phones to be banned from schools throughout the day including break times in bid to cut down disruption and improve behaviour


Mobile phones will be banned in schools under guidance to be issued to headteachers today.

The new rules back teachers in prohibiting phone use throughout the school day – including at break times – in a bid to minimise disruption and improve behaviour in classrooms.

While many schools already ban mobiles, ministers hope the guidance will ensure consistency across all schools. Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said she wanted to give teachers the tools to ‘take action to help improve behaviour and to allow them to do what they do best – teach’.

In England, it is currently up to individual heads to decide policies on mobile phones and whether they should be banned. The guidance, which is non-statutory, instructs headteachers on how to ban the use of phones not only during lessons but during break and lunch periods as well.

Mobile phones will be banned in schools under guidance to be issued to headteachers today (Stock Image)

Mobile phones will be banned in schools under guidance to be issued to headteachers today (Stock Image)

The new rules back teachers in prohibiting phone use throughout the school day ¿ including at break times ¿ in a bid to minimise disruption and improve behaviour in classrooms (Stock Image)

The new rules back teachers in prohibiting phone use throughout the school day – including at break times – in a bid to minimise disruption and improve behaviour in classrooms (Stock Image)

It offers four different policies that schools can adopt to enforce it, including banning phones from the school premises, handing in phones on arrival at school, and keeping phones securely locked away at school.

A fourth option allows pupils to keep hold of their phones, provided they are never used, seen or heard. Almost all children – 97 per cent – now have mobile phones by the age of 12, according to Ofcom.

Last year, a UN report recommended smartphones should be banned from schools to improve learning and tackle classroom disruption and cyberbullying. Unesco, the UN’s education agency, pointed to evidence linking excessive mobile phone use to reduced educational performance.

Several studies have found links between phone use and poor mental health among children – including anxiety, depression and low self-esteem – and there are growing concerns that pupils are using mobiles to bully each other and for sexual harassment.

Mrs Keegan has warned that the internet has taken bullying ‘to new levels’, with bullies able to ‘prey on their victims in the safety of their own homes’.

Last week, the mother of Brianna Ghey, 16, who was murdered by two teenagers from her school, one of whom had watched videos of torture online, and the father of Molly Russell, 14, who took her own life after viewing harmful material on social media, joined forces to combat online harm. Ministers have previously attempted to ban mobile phones in classrooms. Three years ago, then-education secretary Sir Gavin Williamson launched a call for evidence on managing behaviour in schools – including the use of mobile phones.

But the proposed ban was ditched by his successor, Nadhim Zahawi.

The Mail revealed last October that Mrs Keegan was planning to order schools to outlaw smartphones.

Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan said last night: ‘Growing up in today’s digital world provides immense opportunities but this should not come at the expense of our children’s wellbeing or education. That is why we have passed world-leading legislation to make the UK the safest place in the world for young people to be online. Today’s announcement will support parents and educators further.’

GILLIAN KEEGAN: Classrooms should be a sanctuary for children

A massive 97 per cent of children have mobile phones by the time they are 12. And the parents among us will know what that means for daily routines – disrupting bedtime, making it harder to focus on homework and struggling for conversation around the dinner table.

The problem spreads beyond the classroom – kids are playing on their mobiles in the playground, when they should be socialising or kicking a ball around.

It encourages solitude – something I’ve seen first-hand on my many trips to schools: children arched over their phones on their own, rather than getting to know their classmates.

I met my best friend at ten years old, a friendship that I cherish and has helped me appreciate the most important things in life – family and friends. Bullying on the other hand, has always been a problem at school – one that I take incredibly seriously.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan says the governments Online Safety Act will protect children from accessing harmful content

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan says the governments Online Safety Act will protect children from accessing harmful content

Ms Keegan: 'We are working with regulators to force social media firms to prevent children seeing harmful content or face huge fines and even jail time' (Stock Image)

Ms Keegan: ‘We are working with regulators to force social media firms to prevent children seeing harmful content or face huge fines and even jail time’ (Stock Image)

This is on top of harmful content that children can access on social media – such as misogynist, pornographic and lurid content that is highly unsuitable for children.

Our Online Safety Act is in place and while its impact is yet to be felt, it will protect children from accessing this harmful content. We are working with regulators to force social media firms to prevent children seeing harmful content or face huge fines and even jail time. I’m announcing new guidance that gives headteachers across the country clear and consistent advice to crack down on kids using mobiles at school. Some schools in the UK have already banned them – and the results speak for themselves. Where this has happened, schools have seen children concentrating, bullying falling and friendships blossoming.

Naturally there will be some instances where phones must be allowed – such as a child with diabetes who needs to check their glucose levels on an app. But the guidance puts in place a blueprint for headteachers to make the right decisions for their schools.

Our children deserve a world-class education. So it’s right that we take action urgently to ensure they are learning in the best environment possible – and I expect headteachers to start to plan the ban from today.

School years are some of the most precious and they pass us by in a blink of an eye. Children need to put down their phones, look up, and enjoy it while they can.



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