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Education secretary Gillian Keegan confirms complete mobile phone ban for schools





Mobile phones are to be banned in schools completely under new government rules aimed at improving behaviour in the classroom.

Headteachers will be able to eliminate phones from the school day entirely – including at all breaks and lunchtimes – under new advice being given to them this week.

Guidance suggests banning devices completely on school grounds. Image; iStock.
Guidance suggests banning devices completely on school grounds. Image; iStock.

While the use of mobile phones in school is already tightly controlled by many leaders – education secretary Gillian Keegan is introducing fresh guidance that now backs a ban for the whole school day.

The rules, which will serve as guidance to schools, rather than law, will ‘support’ headteachers, says the government, who wish to tighten existing school policies or introduce new ones.

By the age of 12, says regulator Ofcom, 97% of children have their own mobile phone.

But using devices in school ‘can lead to online bullying, distraction and classroom disruption’ say education ministers, who want to clamp down on issues that may lead to lost learning time for pupils.

The government has released new advice for schools. Image: iStock.
The government has released new advice for schools. Image: iStock.

Organisation Parentkind, which acts as a voice for parents in education, says families are concerned about phone use in school.

Chief executive Jason Elsom explained: “The government is right to be taking decisive action on the use of phones in schools with our research indicating that 44% of parents are concerned about the amount of time their children spend on electronic devices and more than three quarters of parents support a ban on phones in schools. This is the number one concern for parents, according to the National Parent Survey.

“Society has sleepwalked into a position where children are addicted to harmful ‘electronic drugs’, and have no-escape from their digital dealers, not even within the relatively safe grounds of their schools.”

A report by the UN last summer called for a global ban on students using phones in schools. Image: iStock.
A report by the UN last summer called for a global ban on students using phones in schools. Image: iStock.

Implementing the ban

The new advice now being circulated among school leaders means children can be barred from using their devices both in class and around the school outside of lesson time.

And any school who wants to implement such a ban or amend current policies, will have the full support of the government in doing so.

However the new guidelines do allow for students to carry their phones with them – for use on their journey to and from school for safety reasons.

School leaders, suggests the new rules, can consider different approaches in deciding exactly how to ban children’s phones on school premises.

This, it says, may include getting students to hand them into staff on arrival or keeping phones securely locked away at school during the day.

Lockers with charging points, which keep phones out of sight and reach during the day, explains the new guidance have also been successfully adopted by some schools.

In 2021 the education secretary Gavin Williamson raised concerns about phones being in school. Image: iStock.
In 2021 the education secretary Gavin Williamson raised concerns about phones being in school. Image: iStock.

History of the ban

It was back in 2019 that then schools minister Nick Gibb first suggested the government may lean towards advising on a complete ban on phones in schools.

In 2021 education secretary Gavin Williamson echoed his thoughts and said he too felt ‘it was time to put the screens away’.

Writing in a national newspaper in the midst of the pandemic, Mr Williamson said phones not only move children away from “exercise and good old-fashioned play” but were also one of the causes of cyber bullying and the inappropriate use of social media.

However no further progress was made after it was decided – following further investigation in February 2022 - that most schools already had ‘adequate’ measures in place to manage phone use and no blanket ban across England was felt necessary by ministers.

Yet a report from the UN, released last summer, called for a global ban on all mobile phone use in school – citing research that suggested the move would tackle classroom disruption, improve learning and protect youngsters from bullying.

Education Secretary of State Gillian Keegan. Picture: Keith Heppell.
Education Secretary of State Gillian Keegan. Picture: Keith Heppell.

And an announcement at the last Conservative Party Conference in 2023 soon followed, revealing that the government was now considering a complete ban.

Gillian Keegan, who was appointed education secretary in October 2022, says phones have become an ‘unwanted distraction’.

She said: “Schools are places for children to learn and mobile phones are, at a minimum, an unwanted distraction in the classroom.

“We are giving our hard-working teachers the tools to take action to help improve behaviour and to allow them to do what they do best – teach.”



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