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Ten takeaways from the DfE’s Mobile phones in schools guidance

By February 19, 2024No Comments

The Department for Education has today released guidance on the use of mobile phones in schools. It is something which has been a hot topic for as long as mobile phones have been available to young people.

The DfE have shared four key documents:

Having had the chance to give each a bit of a read-through, there are ten key things, which seem ultimately, like good, common sense:

  1. Develop and Implement a Clear Policy: Schools can formulate and enforce a clear policy prohibiting the use of mobile phones during the school day, ensuring it aligns with the school’s culture and overall behaviour policies.
  2. Communicate the Policy Effectively: Communicate the mobile phone prohibition policy to pupils, parents, and staff, ensuring understanding and adherence across the school community.
  3. Use Lockers or Secure Storage: Require pupils to store their mobile phones in lockers or similar secure storage upon arrival, to be accessed only at the end of the school day.
  4. Adopt a ‘Never Seen, Never Heard’ Approach: Alternatively choose to allow pupils to keep their mobile phones on them, provided they are never used, seen, or heard, enforcing strict consequences for any breaches.
  5. Lead by Example: Staff members should model appropriate behaviour by not using personal mobile phones for personal reasons in front of pupils, except when necessary for educational purposes or emergencies.
  6. Apply Sanctions for Non-Compliance: Use a range of sanctions for breaches of the mobile phone policy, including confiscation and detentions, ensuring actions are lawful and proportionate.
  7. Perform Searches when Necessary: Headteachers or authorised staff have the statutory power to search pupils or their possessions for mobile phones if there are reasonable grounds to suspect a breach of policy.
  8. Make Reasonable Adjustments: Make reasonable adjustments for pupils with disabilities or medical conditions that necessitate the use of a mobile phone during the school day, ensuring compliance with the Equality Act 2010.
  9. Educate on the Benefits of a Phone-Free Environment: Educate stakeholders to help pupils understand the benefits of being present and engaged without the distraction of mobile phones, fostering a positive school culture.
  10. Manage Use Outside School Hours: Determine policies regarding the use of mobile phones on school premises outside of regular school hours, including during extracurricular activities and school trips, with a focus on safety and well-being.

The guidance isn’t ground breaking, but as a parent myself of two teenagers, I think the 9th point in this list is one of the most key. Both young people and parents will need support. Whilst the research is strong on the negative effects mobile phones can have on the lives of young people, their lives are so intertwined in their use of phones for a wide variety of reasons and habits are difficult to change.

Of the four documents, whilst the overarching guidance document is useful, I thought the toolkit for schools was really good. Here’s a breakdown of its advice:

  • Policy Communication: Communicate policies on prohibiting mobile phones, aligning with broader behavioural guidance. Engaging parents and pupils in understanding the policy’s rationale is crucial and the toolkit provides lots of helpful information to support this.
  • Facts and Figures: High mobile phone ownership among children and significant use of social media highlight the need for informed parental choices and support for schools in managing mobile use and promoting online safety.
  • Impact on Learning and Wellbeing: Unauthorised use of mobile phones in class disrupts learning, while screen time can negatively affect children’s socialising, exercise, and sleep, contributing to online bullying and mental health issues. A ‘no phone after X O’clock’ policy is one which has served me well to counter many of these issues.
  • Implementing Policy Changes: Successful policy implementation involves consulting with parents and pupils, clear communication, trial periods, and explaining the benefits of reducing mobile phone use, alongside making reasonable adjustments for specific needs.
  • Communication Strategies: Schools should employ various communication methods, including digital platforms and personal interactions, to keep parents informed and engaged with the mobile phone policy, reinforcing a culture free from mobile distractions.

It’s clear that the conversation around mobile phones in schools is a big one, but the truth is, it’s one I agree with. As readers of my blog, you’ll know that I am 100% of the mindset that technology should be something intertwined into the curriculum, however, unmanaged, personal devices, are not the cornerstone of a strong, strategic digital strategy. A managed device, supported by safeguarding measures, a robust workflow solution and activities linked directly to learning in the classroom is not one where personal mobile phones sit at the heart of the strategy.

Mark Anderson

Mark Anderson, @ICTEvangelist. Click here to learn more.

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