Headteachers in Greater Manchester say the proposed ban on mobile phones in schools is ‘a farce of an issue’.
With Education Secretary Gillian Keegan using today’s Conservative Party conference in Manchester to set out plans to ban phones from classrooms in England, leaders have been telling us there are far more urgent matters that need addressing in education.
While they acknowledge that mobile phone use is an issue among young people, it’s often what is happening on them outside of school that causes the problems.
Like most secondary schools across our region and beyond, pupils at both Co-op Academy Walkden, in Salford, and Newman Catholic College, in Chadderton, Oldham, are fully aware that phones cannot be used throughout the day – that includes break times.
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Describing smartphones as ‘attention hoovers’, Co-op Academy’s head Matt Hacker said phones in class would ‘distract us from what matters most in school – learning and engaging with the curriculum’.
While Newman head Glyn Potts said a mobile phone ban has already been in place for 10 years now and blasted the announcement as ‘a farce of an issue’.
He said: “Of all the issues we face in education at the moment, mobile phones isn’t in my top 10. I would want to see action towards SEND funding, children missing education, the mental health crisis, crumbling schools and the recruitment issue – but we have phones.”
Mr Hacker agreed, saying ‘most schools have already addressed the issues around mobile phone usage and have clear policies in place to deal with it’.
He said: “For schools right now, the more pertinent issues include attendance, staff recruitment and retention, support for children with SEND and support for children with poor mental health.
“The latter two are falling to schools more and more and to make this sustainable, there needs to be adequate funding for these additional services.”
It doesn’t mean to say that mobiles aren’t an issue for young people. Schools are all too aware of the impact they are having on students and at both Newman and Walkden they are taught about the dangers and risks of mobile phone use.
“As well as the unwanted distraction, the frequent addiction/checking of social media is having a seriously damaging effect on the mental health of young people,” said Mr Hacker.
“Constant scrolling through Instagram and Snapchat, we see the perfection of what others want us to see, which is damaging to our own perceptions of ourselves – striving for attributes that are unattainable mostly.
“We also see that abuse of social media can be so detrimental to young people in that it empowers online bullying and anonymity.”
Today’s announcement is not the first time a Tory minister has suggested a ban.
Two years ago, then-education secretary Sir Gavin Williamson pledged to make the school day ‘mobile-free’, however the proposed ban was scrapped by his successor, Nadhim Zahawi, early last year.
The Department for Education said instead that revised guidance would make clear that ‘heads are best placed’ to make decisions on mobiles.
Does your child’s school ban phones during the day? Do you think it’s an issue that needs addressing or are there other matters that need attention? Let us know your views in the comments.