Cell phones will be banned in schools in England from January as part of plans being considered by the government, I can reveal.
The news came as England’s Children’s Commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza lined up behind ministers in support of a ban.
Last week, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson launched a consultation on behavior in schools that will examine the possibility of “creating cell-free days.”
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While waiting for the result of the consultation, I understands that ministers intend to introduce the ban in 2022.
The Ministry of Education believes the ban is best introduced at the start of a new term. But with the consultation lasting six weeks and schools needing time to update their policies, September of this year is likely to come too early for measurement.
Instead, ministers are targeting January or after the Easter break for the policy to take effect.
Addressed exclusively to IDame Rachel has said she supports Mr Williamson’s plan to officially exclude smartphones from schools.
“The new movement is useful,” she said. “I think that’s generally a positive thing, it’s something that a lot of us have been doing for a while and I think there is a general wave of support for it.
“If you look at France, they’ve had a mobile phone ban in place for three years and I think it went really well. It’s a bit of a non-issue and I’m pretty sure it will be like that here. ”
Until last year, Dame Rachel was Managing Director of the Inspiration Trust, a chain of academies in the east of England, where students are required to keep phones off and away.
She said any ban in England would likely go in the same direction, with “smartphones that can be connected to Wi-Fi to be left at home, or not to be used or taken out of the bag during school hours.”
While parents would still be allowed to give their kids smartphones, Dame Rachel suggested they could give them an old-fashioned “brick phone” instead.
“It is the distraction in the school provided by this Internet connection and all the damage that can accompany it [that’s the problem], “she said.” We know a lot of underage kids access things they shouldn’t on the Internet, and frankly keep it out of school. ”
Banning phones in school “would take the pressure off parents a bit as increasingly younger children have to buy these phones which are not cheap,” she said. It would also help “the local police not to let children go to school and come back from school with hundreds of books of wearable technology that could easily be a target for pickpockets,” she said. .
Some school leaders objected to Mr Williamson’s position as an attack on their autonomy, while others said phones had a role to play in schools so that teachers could teach young people how to use them. use responsibly.
However, Dame Rachel has stated that she does not accept any of these arguments.
“I’m very pro self-reliance… but something like that just makes sense, and when things work really well, it’s good to take them nationwide.” [level], is not it ?
“Teaching responsibility is really important, but I don’t think it has to go with cell phones in school. ”
Dame Rachel, who was asked by ministers to advise them on protecting children from harm online, said more needs to be done to prevent young people from accessing social media and websites for underage adults.
“I think age verification is a huge problem that needs to be addressed and can be solved and the lack of proper age verification mechanisms causes all kinds of problems,” she said. .
“We’re talking with all the tech companies about how they can prevent underage children from accessing their social media sites and what they can do to keep kids safe, and I’m pushing for verification. age.”
The government should provide more money for remedial education as part of the spending review, the children’s commissioner said.
Last month Boris Johnson announced a £ 1.4bn catch-up plan, bringing the total funding allocated to date to £ 3.1bn.
However, the move resulted in the resignation of the Prime Minister’s Education Restoration Commissioner, Sir Kevan Collins, who said a package worth £ 15bn was needed.
Dame Rachel de Souza said I: “First of all, I think we have to recognize that the money that came in is more money than ever outside of an expenditure review… [that’s a] very good start.
She continued, “I think there will definitely be a need [for more money] over the next couple of years, and I think it’s about being very forensic about what we need and who needs it.
“I go to some schools where they’re absolutely on top of that, and I hear from other principals and other schools where they’re really stretched out and I think especially if you’re not in a family of. schools where services can be centrally regulated, this has been really difficult.
“Of course, I will support the investment in remedial education.”
Dame Rachel added that some of her “biggest concerns” were “in the early years when children lacked speech and language development.”