The Association of School and College Leaders believes education leaders already have the use of mobile phones by students well under control and should be left to make their own decisions, pointing out that a blanket ban could disadvantage some learners.
Julie McCulloch, Director of Policy at ASCL, said Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson’s view on mobile phones was ‘outdated and out of touch’ with the reality in schools and colleges.
“School and college leaders are slightly mystified about the Education Secretary’s fixation with banning mobile phones in classrooms because they have been dealing with the practicalities of this issue for many years now,” she said.
“Many already ask students to keep phones in their bags during the academic day and others have positive policies in place that allow young people to make limited use of their phones to aid their learning or capture important information.
“For other learners a mobile phone is an essential safety measure, especially children in the care system, and for young carers a mobile phone might be needed to provide essential support to parents.”
She also pointed out that secondary schools had an important role to play in educating their youngest pupils about the safe use of mobile phones, particularly social media, and in recognising and reporting online harms.
“Our view remains that schools and colleges already have strong tried and tested policies and they are best placed to make their own decisions on how mobile phone use impacts pupils’ learning and wellbeing,” she commented.
In its consultation response, ASCL also reported that some of the emergency measures needed during the pandemic have helped offset poor conduct and led to fewer complaints of anti-social behaviour, with some schools and colleges planning to keep them in place on an ongoing basis.
Many had found benefits in staggering the end of the school day, while others identified roles for older pupils as wellbeing champions, buddies and mentors to support younger pupils.
ASCL also recognised the need for quiet spaces within schools and colleges in which pupils demonstrating challenging behaviour could be supported to re-engage constructively and quickly with their classmates.
But it criticised the DfE’s use of the term ‘removal room’ as ‘unhelpful and stigmatising’ and warned that their use could be particularly inappropriate for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
Ms McCulloch added: “We welcome opportunities to share good practice and learning in support of children who struggle to regulate their behaviour, but the timing of this consultation could hardly be worse for gathering the valuable and extensive evidence required, coming at the end of a particularly busy and difficult school year, coinciding with a very busy end of term period, and running into much-needed holiday time for school and college leaders.”