Opinion: A phone ban in schools is a headline-grabbing policy detracting from the real issues affecting education today
Mobile phones are to be banned in schools.
Or more accurately – the government is suggesting headteachers implement a rule they most likely have a version of already.
The Conservative Party claims 40% of 14-year-olds have reported that their lessons are disrupted by phones and a ban is needed to bring order to classrooms and tackle bullying.
It’s hard to believe there’s large swathes of students scrolling their screen when they should be paying attention in science. Unless of course that science class has no teacher? Or the IT room no longer enough PCs or tablets for the job?
Because, let’s be honest, there are far greater issues affecting education today than whether a pupil has a phone in their pocket.
And yet we’re being led to believe - via the education secretary’s flagship party conference speech this week - that this school policy is by far the most pressing issue on the desk of a minister responsible for the learning of all toddlers through to teens.
(And not even a new policy at that – but one already wheeled out by two previous schools ministers in the last five years).
Forget the budget constraints leaving headteachers struggling to meet the cost of their (growing) wage bill, while scrabbling for the cash needed to buy new equipment or pay the energy bills.
Or the recruitment and retention crisis leaving thousands of lessons each week untaught as leadership teams beg, borrow and steal to get cover. (Just shy of 40,000 teachers quite the profession last year as workloads and pressure took its toll.)
Not to mention the thousands of pupils who have had their learning upended again, because their school is a victim of crumbling concrete or the pupils with special educational needs without a suitable school place because provision and support is woeful at best.
And that’s before we’ve touched on by far the biggest issue affecting learning today – (spoiler...it’s not phones) – and that’s the mental health crisis sweeping through schools decimating the attendance of some while placing additional pressure on staff now working around the clock to get reluctant kids into classrooms.
The physical and verbal abuse facing teachers, says union NASUWT, is actually what its members are most concerned about – fearful that worsening behaviour is leaving them open to attacks in the classroom.
I’m not immune to the issues phones throw up. Any parent to have given their child a device knows how hard it can be to get them to lift their eyes from a screen and show enthusiasm for something other than the latest meme.
And the bullying of children via social media - through phones - is horrific. But that’s not going to be fixed with a ban between 9am and 3pm.
Schools already have phone rules which suit them. Even the Department for Education admitted in February, after research, that a blanket ban was uncalled for because most schools already had adequate regulations in place.
Teachers don’t need government creating a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.
They – and our children - also don’t need a government attempting to grab favourable headlines in favour of addressing the real and significant issues blighting our schools today.