Schools face new laws banning mobile phones in classrooms if they fail to act on new guidance
- Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said the ban would tackle online bullying
- She also announced plans for ‘minimum service levels’ during university strikes
Downing Street has threatened to pass legislation to ban mobile phones in classrooms if schools fail to act on new guidance.
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan yesterday confirmed that she would order heads to outlaw devices in lessons and during break times.
She said teachers are struggling with the impact of phones in the classroom and need support in a bid to tackle disruptive behaviour and online bullying.
But No10 said the Government could go further and introduce new laws to enforce the guidance if it is not heeded.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said yesterday: ‘We will issue guidance to schools to take immediate actions for leaders to do the right thing by their pupils and teachers.
Schools have been threatened with new legislation banning mobile phones from the classroom if they fail to act on new guidance
‘It will include real-life best-practice examples from schools that are already successfully doing this.
‘Compelling schools to make the change by putting the guidance on a statutory footing and therefore legislating would take time.
‘So we obviously keep that under consideration, if needed, but we think it’s better to act swiftly, which is why we’re issuing this guidance.’
Downing Street said the guidance would bring ‘consistency’ to phone use in schools, while the Department for Education said it would lead to improvements in behaviour.
Mrs Keegan announced the new guidance – first revealed in yesterday’s Daily Mail – during her keynote speech to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.
In a confident address, she drew heavily on her own state school education in Knowsley, Merseyside – sparking fresh claims that she is positioning herself as a future Tory leader.
The Education Secretary said: ‘Today, one of the biggest issues facing children and teachers is grappling with the impact of smartphones in our schools.
‘The distraction, the disruption, the bullying. We know that teachers are struggling with their impact and we know that they need support.
‘So, today we are recognising the amazing work that many schools have done in banning mobile phones and we are announcing that we will change guidance so that all schools will follow their lead.’
In her conference keynote speech, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan also announced a consultation into ‘minimum service levels’ at universities, in response to ongoing UCU strikes
Mrs Keegan also announced she would launch a consultation on introducing new ‘Minimum Service Levels’ in universities to protect students from being held to ransom by the University and College Union (UCU).
The UCU has held 19 days of strike action so far this year, according to the Department for Education.
She said: ‘Many will still want to go to university and that will be the right choice for them, and if they do they should get the education that they paid for, that is common sense, right?
‘Apparently not, because over recent years we have seen constant strikes, we have students not getting the education they paid for, and some not even having their degrees marked. This is outrageous behaviour.’
She also said it was ‘common sense’ for parents to be told what their children are being taught in schools, and for girls to have separate toilets to boys.
Mrs Keegan’s mobile phone crackdown was welcomed by former BBC newsreader Kate Silverton, who is now a child therapist.
She said it was ‘about time’ ministers acted, and suggested children under 16 be barred from using phones with access to the internet to reduce the potential for online harms.
But unions said proposals to curb smartphones with internet access were unworkable and would make the current behaviour crisis worse
But unions said the proposal was unenforceable.
Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said: ‘If the Government introduces blanket bans that are unenforceable, this will make the behaviour crisis worse, not better.’
And Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said the announcement could present a ‘big challenge’ for schools.
He said: ‘We are not sure how it would work in practice and how it could be successfully implemented in a wide range of schools.
‘Most young people won’t just stop bringing their phones to school, and there could be parental opposition too, as there are practical reasons why pupils may need a mobile phone such as while travelling to and from school.’
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