‘It’s the right thing to do’: Chancellor backs ban on mobile phones in schools ahead of policy announcement

2 October 2023, 08:52

Jeremy Hunt on Gillian Keegan's suggestion that phones should be banned in schools

By Jenny Medlicott

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has backed the education secretary’s plan to ban mobile phones in schools as he hailed the decision as the "right thing to do".

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The Education Secretary Gillian Keegan will announce a ban on mobile phones in schools across England today.

Speaking to LBC’s Nick Ferrari at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, Mr Hunt said he feels the decision is the “right thing to do”.

He told the presenter: “It is a nightmare extracting my children away from their screens, they are so addictive.

“But sometimes when you see them after a long day’s work and they don’t want to talk to daddy, they want to talk to their iPad, I don’t think it’s right.”

He added: “I thoroughly agree with this - it’s the right thing to do academically but also the right thing socially because school is the time when the closest and deepest friendships are formed and you can’t do that if you’re distracted by a phone.”

Ms Keegan will lay out the policy at the Conservative Party Conference on Monday, which will see phones prohibited during lessons and breaks in a bid to improve pupils’ focus and remove distractions.

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The policy will see phones banned throughout the school day.
The policy will see phones banned throughout the school day. Picture: Alamy

“Gillian believes that mobile phones pose a serious challenge in terms of distraction, disruptive behaviour, and bullying,” a source told the Daily Mail.

“It is one of the biggest issues that children and teachers have to grapple with so she will set out a way forward to empower teachers to ban mobiles from classrooms.”

A ban on smartphone devices in schools was also considered by former education secretary Gavin Williamson in 2021 amid concerns they were “distracting”.

“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,” Mr Williamson said at the time.

“In order for us to help pupils overcome the challenges from the pandemic and level up opportunity for all young people, we need to ensure they can benefit from calm classrooms which support them to thrive.”

Various schools already enforce their own bans on mobile phones, some requiring students to hand in their phones in the morning, but many still allow pupils to use the devices during break times.

Ms Keegan is expected to announce the policy today.
Ms Keegan is expected to announce the policy today. Picture: Alamy

Some have blamed phones for distracting pupils and creating disruptions in the classroom in recent years.

It comes after a United Nations report from the summer recommended a ban on smartphones to cut down on such disruptions as well as cyberbullying.

In the summer, Finland introduced a ban on the devices in classrooms in a bid to improve exam results. Its ban followed other European countries, such as Italy and France, who have implemented similar rules on phones in recent years.

Excessive phone use has been linked to reduced educational performance, according to Unesco, the United Nation’s education, science and culture agency.

Unesco's director general, Audrey Azoulay, said: “The digital revolution holds immeasurable potential but, just as warnings have been voiced for how it should be regulated in society, similar attention must be paid to the way it is used in education.

“Its use must be for enhanced learning experiences and for the wellbeing of students and teachers, not to their detriment.”