Children are so dependent on their phones that they will behave badly if they are not allowed to have them in school, a union has suggested.
In June, Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, said he wanted to introduce a ban on phones in schools and announced a consultation on the plans.
In its response, the Association of School and College Leaders (ACSL) argued that children may experience “anxiety” if their phones are removed or banned, which in turn could “trigger poor behaviour”.
The union said individual schools should be free to set their own policies regarding phone use, as they are “best placed to decide on the impact of these decisions on their pupils’ learning and wellbeing”.
Julie McCulloch, the director of policy at ASCL, said: “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 added: “Our view remains that schools and colleges already have strong tried-and-tested policies and they are best placed to make their own decisions.”
Phones ‘distracting’, says Williamson
Mr Williamson has described phones in the classroom as “distracting” and “damaging”.
He said “I want to put an end to this, making the school day mobile-free. In order for us to help pupils overcome the challenges from the pandemic and level up opportunities for all young people, we need to ensure they can benefit from calm classrooms which support them to thrive.”
The union, which represents around 21,500 school leaders and staff schools, said a more nuanced, case-by-case approach was preferable to a blanket ban.
All of the schools ASCL consulted said that they allowed appropriate use of phones by sixth formers.
Some schools said total bans on smartphones made it difficult for teachers to make use of technology during lessons.
The union further argued that some children required access to their phones, such as young carers who might need them during the school day to “provide essential support to parents”.
Pupils with special educational needs and disabilities benefit from using their phones as a support tool in class, by taking photographs of work or lesson instructions on the board that they did not manage to record in their own books quickly enough, a method supported by the SENCo, the union added.