Mobile phones to be banned in 'all schools in England' as Keegan vows to 'give teachers tools they need'

19 February 2024, 00:05 | Updated: 19 February 2024, 07:32

Keegan and child with a phone
Mobile phones will be banned in schools under new guidance by the Department for Education seeking to fulfil a pledge made last year. Picture: Alamy

By Chay Quinn

Mobile phones will be banned in schools under new guidance by the Department for Education seeking to fulfil a pledge made last year.

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The new document was hailed by Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, who has spearheaded the push to ban the devices from schools in England.

The promise was met with disdain at the time, with a trade union suggesting the problem was not a pronounced as ministers suggest.

In England, it is up to individual heads to decide their own policies on mobile phones and whether they should be banned.

Cabinet Meeting in Downing Street
The new document was hailed by Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, who has spearheaded the push to ban the devices from schools in England. Picture: Getty

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.

In a foreword to the document, Ms Keegan said it would provide "clarity and consistency" for teachers and that there is currently "a large variation in how different schools are managing the use of mobile phones".

In a statement, 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."

Tom Bennet, who advises the Department for Education on behaviour, said: "Mobile phones may be ubiquitous, but we have a strong and growing understanding of how damaging they can be for a child's social and educational development.

High School Exams 2022
In a foreword to the document, Ms Keegan said it would provide "clarity and consistency" for teachers and that there is currently "a large variation in how different schools are managing the use of mobile phones". Picture: Getty

"And it's the least advantaged who suffer most. Many schools already have some kind of policy on phones, but this guidance provides a clear steer for everyone, including parents, about what's right and what's not for the wellbeing of the child.

The Government pointed to recent official data that showed 29% of secondary school pupils reported mobile phones being used when not supposed to.

But the Association of School and College Leaders said it did not expect the new guidance to make any discernible impact.

General Secretary Geoff Barton said that the "compulsive use" of devices was not happening in schools but "while children are out of school".

He said: "Most schools already forbid the use of mobile phones during the school day or allow their use only in limited and stipulated circumstances.

"We have lost count of the number of times that ministers have now announced a crackdown on mobile phones in schools. It is a non-policy for a non-problem.

"The Government would be far better off putting its energies into bringing to heel the online platforms via which children are able to access disturbing and extreme content."

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