Minister for School Standards, Nick Gibb, has called for mobile phones to be banned from classrooms, and suggested that children be taught about the dangers of smartphones.
He believes that schools have a responsibility to encourage positive phone habits. Gibb said that he hoped children would start limiting their own phone use at home. “Every hour spent online and on a smartphone is an hour less talking to family, and it’s an hour less exercise and it’s an hour less sleep,” he explained.
“Schools obviously are free to set their own behaviour policies but my own view is that schools should ban mobile telephones and smartphones inside school, and particularly inside classrooms.”
Gibbs comments were made before the UK Government’s revised health, relationships and sex education guidance for schools in England was revealed. The guidance will include advice on limiting screen time and smartphone use, as well as the effects on sleep, online safety and access to pornography.
The minister is not alone in his criticism of smartphone usage in school. Sir Michael Wilshaw, the former head of Ofsted, said that phones were disrupting lessons and that “any sensible head would ban mobile phones”. Some countries, such as France, have taken the bold step of banning mobile devices in classrooms.
“It’s far too distracting for children having mobile phones,” Wilshaw said. “Texting, sexting, all this takes place. Mobile phones go off in classrooms, disrupting lessons. Ban them.”
However, opinions on this issue have been varied. Education secretary, Damian Hinds, in contrast to Gibbs view, said that the Government should not introduce a ban on mobile phones in school.
Instead, Hinds said that the decision should be left to headteachers. “My own view is that schools should ban their pupils from bringing smartphones into school or the classroom,” he told the BBC.
“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.”
Commenting in an interview with the Gaurdian, Hinds said: “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.”