2019-11-04 by W.M.
Mobile phones to be banned in WA public schools from 2020 under McGowan Government move
The WA Government will ban students from using mobile phones in all public schools in a major push to reduce distraction and focus on learning.
- The ban covers mobile phones, smart watches, tablets and other devices
- It comes into effect from 2020 at all public primary and high schools
- Exemptions will be made for students with special circumstances
The ban, announced today by Premier Mark McGowan and Education Minister Sue Ellery, will come into effect from 2020.
The prohibition on phones will take effect during school hours, beginning from the time students arrive until the end of the school day, including before school and during break times.
“We want to create the best possible learning environment for WA kids and our policy will allow students to focus on their school work without the distraction of a mobile phone,” Mr McGowan said.
With no phones, life returns to the schoolyard
The “off and away all day” policy comes after consultation with schools such as Ocean Reef High School that already had successful guidelines in place for controlling access to mobile phones.
Teachers will still be allowed to give students permission to use their phone. (ABC South East SA: Kate Hill)
Principal Karon Brookes said despite initial resistance from some students, the ban immediately reduced disruptions in the classroom and increased interaction in the schoolyard.
“Teachers felt that at every change of lesson, they weren’t dealing with students and reminding them, prompting them to put away their phones,” she said.
“But we also noticed this growing noise in the yard … students were actually talking, laughing and engaging with each other.”
Ms Brookes said the school set up extra activities at recess and lunch breaks to help students get used to the new policy.
One Year 11 student at Ocean Reef Senior High School, ZJ Tan, said the ban had paid dividends.
“We are not distracted by notifications, so we are more focused in class and we are aware of what homeworks are given out [and] when assignments are due. So grades have improved,” she said.
Smart watches, tablets included in ban
The ban restricts the use of mobile phones, smart watches, earbuds, tablets and headphones unless students are under the instruction of a staff member.
Students from kindergarten to Year 6 will not be permitted to have mobile phones in their possession during the school day.
Students from Years 7 to 12 must have their phones turned off during school hours and kept off and out of sight until the end of the school day.
Additionally, under the new policy, smart watches must be set to airplane mode.
Mr McGowan said exemptions to the policy would be made for students with special circumstances, including those who needed to monitor a health condition, were under the direct instruction of a teacher for educational purposes or had teacher permission for a specified purpose.
A break from technology: Minister
Education Minister Sue Ellery told ABC Radio Perth the ban, which had been trialled at six secondary schools, had been relatively well received.
“Most of [the students] said they found it useful to have a break,” she said.
“Some of them whinged a little bit, but nobody said that it was completely unreasonable.”
Ms Ellery said teachers would also be allowed to give students permission to use their phone — for example, to take photos of work on whiteboards or to confirm shifts with employers.
She said while other states pointed to the rise of cyberbullying as motivation for similar bans, that was not the case in WA.
“I don’t know that it will do that of itself, because most of that happens actually outside of school hours,” she said.
“But if this policy helps kids form the habit of having a break and knowing that the world isn’t going to end, the sky isn’t going to fall down, if you’re not on social media 24/7.
“That will probably help with cyberbullying as well.”
Ms Ellery said the response at Ocean Reef Senior High School, one of the schools to have trialled the ban, gave her confidence the change would be a success.
“When they introduced the policy at the start of last school year, they were amazed,” she said.
“They hadn’t anticipated the level of noise in the playground at lunchtime because kids were actually talking to each other.”