The Conservative education secretary, Gillian Keegan, plans to issue new guidance aiming to ban mobile phones throughout the school day in English schools, according to the Guardian. This announcement is expected to be delivered at the Tory party conference in Manchester.

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Key Takeaways

  • Conservative education secretary Gillian Keegan aims to ban mobile phones across schools in England.
  • While headteachers are already advised to regulate phone use, Keegan is pushing for stricter, unified guidance from Whitehall.
  • The move follows a UN report suggesting a ban on smartphones in schools to improve learning and prevent cyberbullying.

Current ministers recommend that headteachers limit phone usage, with numerous schools having implemented restrictions. However, Keegan believes that broader guidance from Whitehall is necessary.

“Gillian believes mobile phones pose a serious challenge in terms of distraction, disruptive behaviour and bullying.”

government source, Daily Mail

UN Highlights Potential Harm of Mobiles

Support for this move can be traced back to a UN report from July, which advocated for banning smartphones in educational settings. This was to address disruptions in the classroom, enhance learning, and shield children from cyberbullying. UNESCO, the United Nations’ agency focused on education, science, and culture, highlighted the negative implications of excessive phone use on students’ academic performance and emotional stability. Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO’s director general, emphasized:

“The digital revolution holds immeasurable potential… Its use must be for enhanced learning experiences and for the wellbeing of students and teachers, not to their detriment.”

A Recurring Debate

This is not the first time such a measure has been proposed. Past attempts by the Tories to introduce a mobile phone ban were halted, mainly because the Department for Education felt that most schools were already addressing the issue effectively. Feedback from a consultation earlier in February highlighted,

“Most schools have well-developed plans in place for the management of mobile phones and further intervention from government isn’t necessary.”

The Broader Picture

It’s essential to note that this potential guidance wouldn’t affect schools in Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland due to education being a devolved matter. However, there’s criticism from some educational sectors. Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, believes that the focus on a mobile phone ban diverts attention from more pressing issues. He states:

“Schools spend a lot of time dealing with the fallout caused by mobile phone misuse… Meanwhile, the government is doing very little to address the real problems facing schools and colleges of teacher and support staff shortages and funding pressures.”


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