Mobiles must be banned in all schools, urge top head teachers: Open letter calls for nationwide ‘phone-free’ policy to end their ‘disruptive’ influence
- More than 120 schools have joined calls to ban ‘corrosive’ mobile phones
- Think tank Onward is promoting the radical idea to improve school grades
- The bans will apply to all pupils in Year 11 and below – children aged under 16
- Pupils could bring phones to school as long as they were switched off all day
More than 120 schools today back a pledge to ban ‘corrosive’ mobile phones.
In an open letter, dozens of headteachers say every school should implement a ‘phone-free’ policy to end the ‘disruptive’ influence of the devices.
The letter, organised by the think-tank Onward, has been signed by 30 school executives and heads who run some of the best-performing schools in England – including academies ranked in the country’s top ten.
A radical proposal will see school children under the age of 16 banned from using mobile phones while at school. Those who break the rules face punishment
In a challenge to other schools, the headteachers argue that phones can be ‘corrosive to otherwise calm and structured learning environments’. They say: ‘A firm policy against their use is the best way for schools to maintain order in the face of the disruption that mobile phones can cause.’
The heads propose applying it to all pupils in Year 11 – those aged 15 and 16 – or below.
Pupils would be permitted to bring phones into school provided they are switched off and kept away in bags or lockers.
Any pupil caught using a mobile on site should be ‘sanctioned in line with the school’s disciplinary policy’.
Academic research has already linked banning phones to better GCSE results. The London School of Economics found that in 91 schools which put restrictions on mobile use, test scores improved by more than 6 per cent.
Education Secretary Damian Hinds has backed a ban but stopped short of bringing in nationwide rules, insisting that headteachers must decide their own policies.
How careers talks boost GCSE grades
Learning about the world of work helps pupils to get better GCSE grades, research shows.
Low-achievers were particularly likely to work harder after learning more about their future prospects, a study found.
Researchers examined a group of around 650 secondary school pupils in England the year before their GCSEs. Some were given careers talks and meetings with employers.
The pupils who had careers sessions were slightly more likely to exceed their predicted GCSE grades. Those expected to get the worst grades showed a 9 per cent increase in revision hours if they had the career sessions. The researchers, commissioned by the charity Education and Employers, said employers and those with first-hand experience of different industries appeared to provide more ‘authentic’ influences on GCSE pupils.
Dr Elnaz Kashefpakdel, the charity’s head of research, told the BBC: ‘Those who were initially more sceptical of the value of the education reported a greater increase in motivation to study harder.’
Education Secretary Damian Hinds said: ‘This report underlines the value of good careers education which builds confidence, broadens horizons and fuels ambition.’
The idea also has broad public support. A poll of 10,000 people, commissioned by Onward, found two-thirds backed a school phone ban, with just one in four opposed.
The think-tank’s director, former Downing Street adviser Will Tanner, said: ‘There is now mounting evidence that bans on mobile phones in school could dramatically improve pupils’ concentration, behaviour and attainment – and would be supported by parents and teachers alike.
‘Every school should be going phone-free, just as the 120 schools signing up today have done, to support their children learn without distraction.’
The ban’s supporters at top-rated institutions include Martyn Oliver, who runs the 30-school Outwood Grange Academies Trust; Sir Dan Moynihan, of the Harris Federation; and Sir Nick Weller, of the Dixons Academy Trust.
Mr Oliver said his schools ‘paint a line at the school gate’ and beyond that point phones ‘cannot be seen’.
He added: ‘Any phone seen by a member of staff, whether switched on or not, is immediately confiscated. It must then be collected by the parent – it is never returned directly to the pupil. Parents realise that this is a necessary part of ensuring the school is as good as possible, and pupils often end up appreciating the respite from the pressures of social media that the school provides.’ The heads’ open letter calls for Ofsted inspectors to examine controls on mobiles as part of their review process.
They also back a new kitemark, to be awarded to schools which endorse the phone ban and discipline pupils who violate the rules.
Mark Lehain, director of Parents and Teachers for Excellence – which drew up plans for the kitemark – said a ‘firm ban’ on phones would also improve pupils’ mental health by keeping them off social media.