The Department for Education (DfE) recently consulted on a whole range of behaviour management issues, one of which was the use of mobile phones in schools and classrooms.
So that we could respond, we put out a two-question poll on our Facebook and Twitter channels to gain a snapshot of parental opinion. In total, we received 54 responses from parents and carers, and we’re grateful to them for giving up their time to tell us their views.
Should mobile phones be banned in schools?
We asked whether or not they support their child's school banning the use of mobile phones, where only one option could be selected. The most popular choice was “yes, throughout the school day” (76%). In second place was “yes, just in lessons”, selected by one fifth (20%) of parents. This indicates that almost all respondents (96%) favoured some curtailment of the use of mobile phones during the school day. Against a ban was the remaining 4%.
Do parents have any concerns about a potential ban?
We also asked if parents had any concerns over their child’s school banning the use of mobile phones during the school day. For this question, respondents could select whichever option or options they wished. From 55 respondents, the results were:
- No concerns = 70%
- Safety/security issues = 15%
- They need it to phone home/other = 13%
- In case of emergency = 10%
- They need access to specific information/apps = 4%
- They use them in class to assist learning = 2%
- They should be able to access the latest news = 0%
- Don’t believe schools should have a right to withhold personal effects = 0%
- They use it for learning during breaks and at lunchtime = 0%
The second question showed that the majority of respondents both backed the removal of mobile phones from the school day and had no concerns when it came to curtailing their use and availability throughout the day. The three main mitigating factors all concern providing parental reassurance that their child will be able to contact them, or vice-versa, if necessary, which may fall under the bracket of ‘peace of mind’. This could all be addressed by schools clarifying that mobile phones are permitted out of school hours and that the school will contact the parent in the event of an emergency. Very few parents nominated the options that concerned the use of mobile phones as tools for learning.
As we limited our research to conducting a snap poll for respondents on social media, we did not ask for any demographic details, so we are not able to say whether or not the mobile phone ban proposal showed any variation across different groups or types of parents.
We suggest that if the government moves to legislate against the use of mobile phones in schools, that school leaders are required to communicate expectations clearly with parents, so that they are aware of how the rules will be implemented and what they entail. Parents can then reinforce the expectations on children in the home environment, and ensure that they are prepared for school in a way that meets the rules. Parents are much more likely to be supportive of new measures if they are kept informed. In the event that the outcome of the consultation recommends that schools can decide their mobile phone policy for themselves, we would strongly encourage the DfE to consider legislating for a requirement on schools to consult their parent community when setting or changing their mobile phone policy (a similar provision exists for a school’s RE/RSE policy). Schools can implement Parentkind’s Blueprint for Parent-Friendly Schools for the best practice on parental engagement, to ensure that their consultation efforts reach the whole parent community, not just those parents most likely to respond.