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29th Jun 2021

Pupils face total ban on mobile phones in schools

Charlie Herbert

The Education Secretary says the ban will end their “damaging effect.”

Gavin Williamson has announced that mobile phones will be banned from classrooms as part of his plans for schools across the country to become mobile phone-free zones.

Under his plans, head teachers would be told to stop pupils from using their phones at any point during the school day, the Times reports.

The Education Secretary said that the ban would end the “damaging effect” that the overuse of mobiles can have on children’s mental health and wellbeing.

Williamson said: “Mobile phones are not just distracting, but when misused or overused, they can have a damaging effect on a pupil’s mental health and wellbeing.

“I want to put an end to this, making the school day mobile-free.”

However, teachers have criticised the plans, arguing that the mobile phone ban is simply a “distraction” from the real problems of helping pupils catch up on learning that they have missed out on because of the pandemic.

Unions have insisted that mobile phone policies should be a matter for schools and accused Williamson of playing to the desires of backbench MPs.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that the Education Secretary was “obsessed” with mobile phones in schools.

He said: “In reality, every school will already have a robust policy on the use of mobile phones; it isn’t some sort of digital free-for-all.

“Frankly, school and college leaders would prefer the education secretary to be delivering an ambitious post-pandemic recovery plan and setting out how he intends to minimise educational disruption next term, rather than playing to backbenchers on the subject of behaviour.”

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, added: “Talking about mobile phones is a distraction. Schools generally have very clear policies and will not see the need for another consultation.”

Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that Sarah Hannafin, who is a senior policy adviser for school leaders’ union NAHT, said that the outright banning of mobile phones could “cause more problems than it solves.”