Rishi Sunak
PM Sunak said schools which have banned mobile phones on their campuses have led to a 'better learning' environment. File pic

UK brings new guidelines to ban mobile phones in schools; Rishi Sunak mocked

Sunak made the announcement on the X platform with a promotional video on the ban saying that ‘We know how distracting mobile phones can be. Today, we help schools put an end to this’

In a move to curtail 'disruption and improve behaviour' in classrooms, the UK government has issued a new set of guidelines to ban mobile usage in schools.

This move comes three years after the UK had first called for a ban on mobile phones in schools.

Sunak made the announcement along with a video message on the X platform saying that ‘We know how distracting mobile phones can be. Today, we help schools put an end to this’.

Claiming that almost one-third of staff at secondary schools said their lessons were disrupted by phone, PM Sunak pointed out that schools which have banned mobile phones on their campuses have led to a 'better learning' environment.

According to media reports, the UK's department of education (DfE) has released a new set of government guidance that will empower school head teachers to monitor students about mobile phone usage throughout the school day including at break times.

New guidance to ensure consistency

News reports pointed out that many schools in the UK have already prohibited the use of mobiles in their premises. But, UK government is asserting that these new guidelines are aimed to ensure a “consistent approach” across all schools. Currently, some schools allow the use of mobiles during bteak times, while others have an outright ban.

In an interview, Gillian Keegan, UK’s education secretary affirmed that the guidance would “empower” those who are sitting on the fence and have not yet completely banned phones.

“You go to school, you go to learn, you go to create those friendships, you go to speak to people and socialise and you go to get educated – you don’t go to sit on your mobile phone or to send messages whilst you could actually talk to somebody,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Steps to take for phone free environment?

The guidance suggests a slew of measures ranging from the school issuing an order to students to leave all phones at home or ask them to hand them over on arrival in school. Or, to keep them in inaccessible lockers.

The guidance also states that students can keep them along with the strict condition they are not used or heard during the day.he government guidance says

The reasons for the policy on the ban on phones should be explained to students, says the 13-page DfE guidance.

Teachers should not be seen in schools using a phone except when necessary for work.

Parents also need to be roped in to make the ban more effective and they should contact students via the school office rather than directly.

The problem

The UK media watchdog Office of Communications (OFCOM) has said their data shows that 97 per cent of children by the age of 12 years have their own mobile phones.

The phones are not just causing distractions in classrooms, it also provides scope for online bullying and the children are also exposed to harmful content.

Voices of dissent

One school leaders' union, however, dismissed this new move by the UK government saying that mobile phones are compulsively used mostly out of school by students. They called the new guidance a "non-policy for a non-problem". The union felt that the government would be far better off applying its energies into curbing online platforms where children are accessing disturbing and extreme content.

Mocking Sunak

UK PM Sunak's promotion of this ban on mobile phones in schools attracted widespread criticism online. He was subjected to a lot of ridicule after he shared the promotional video.

Calling the clip 'cringeworthy', social media users said Sunak's acting skills were akin to "GCSE drama". You are failing on immigration but feel the need to make an info-film about phones in school, said one social media user.

The Opposition Labour Party took the opportunity to mock Sunak by releasing a parody video.

The problem of rampant use of mobiles in schools is a huge challenge.

In July last year, UNESCO recommended a universal ban on the usage of smartphones in schools, saying that it was needed to tackle classroom disruption, improve learning, and help protect children from cyberbullying.

According to UNESCO, just one in four countries worldwide had policies banning phones in schools.

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