Parents to be asked if smartphones should be allowed in school

Calls for outright ban follow rising concern over impact of technology on young people

Many secondary schools have “bring your own device” policies to allow students use smartphones or tablets for educational purposes in some classes

Many secondary schools have “bring your own device” policies to allow students use smartphones or tablets for educational purposes in some classes

 

Parents and students are to be consulted on whether smartphones should be allowed in schools.

The use of smartphones and tablet devices among young people has been a source of rising concern, with some campaigners calling for an outright ban.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton is to issue a circular to all schools shortly asking them to decide whether smartphone or tablet devices should be permitted and, if so, in what circumstances.

Many primary schools have long-standing policies which prohibit mobile phone-use or which require children to hand them to teachers on arrival in the morning.

Many secondary schools, on the other hand, have “bring your own device” policies to allow students use smartphones or tablets for educational purposes in some classes.

Calls for a ban on smartphone-use in school have been prompted partly by plans by the French government to prohibit students up to the age of 15 from using mobile phones in schools. This measure is due to come in from September this year.

Mr Bruton said while new technology offered “fantastic opportunities” for young people, there were also potential risks which the Government must respond to.

“My department supports schools in responding to these challenges in a number of ways through the provision of advice, training and other supports on the development of policies, including acceptable usage policies.

Shared understanding

“Today’s announcement, that schools will consult with parents on the use of smartphones in their schools, will ensure that parents, students and schools have a shared understanding of the smartphone-use policy their school has in place.”

Among the issues which schools should consult parents on, Mr Bruton says, include any restrictions that should apply in cases where smartphones or tablets are allowed, such as recording video or taking photos.

They should also make clear whether smartphones should be allowed outside class time, such as during breaks or on school grounds following class.

Following this consultation, Mr Bruton says schools should update their policies on acceptable usage or on bringing your own device to school.

The move comes just over a week after a poll of more than 1,000 teachers indicated that 60 per cent favoured a ban on mobile phones in schools.

The survey, carried out by exams website Studyclix.ie, indicated many students were checking their devices in class on a regular basis.

Luke Saunders, a science teacher, said students with smartphones in their pockets was now the “biggest challenge that teachers face in today’s classroom”.

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) has previously played down calls for a ban on the basis that most primary schools have long-standing policies to stop mobile phone-use in schools.

It says most insist phones are left at home. In cases where parents provide a reason for their child having a phone, many primary schools require phones to be handed into the school office during the day or that phones be turned off during the school day. “In general schools report a high degree of compliance with such policies,” an INTO spokesman said.

Responsible use

At second level, the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals, which represents second-level school leaders, has recommended policies governing the “responsible use” of smartphones rather than outright bans.

“With the rollout of the digital strategy in schools, it would seem hypocritical on the one hand to seek the use of them as resources and, on the other, to ban them,” the association said earlier this year.

Mr Bruton said his circular formed part of wider plans for consultation on a range of issues under new “parent and student charters”.

These charters will require schools to ask for the views of students and parents regularly on , for example, school costs.

Schools will also be required to publish school financial statements which would include information on how voluntary contributions are used.

They will also require schools to publish material on the number of complaints made against them, information on school performance, and to acknowledge gaps, deficiencies or room for improvement.