5th July, 2021 11:28 am
Pending the outcome of the consultation, i understands that ministers are intent on introducing the ban in 2022.
The Department for Education believes the ban is best introduced at the start of a new term. But with the consultation lasting six weeks and schools needing a lead-in time to update their policies, September this year is likely to come too soon for the measure.
Instead, ministers are aiming for January or after the Easter holiday for the policy to come into effect.
Speaking exclusively to i, Dame Rachel said she supported Mr Williamson’s plan to formally exclude smartphones from schools.
“The new move is helpful,” she said. “I think it’s generally a positive thing, it’s something lots of us have been doing for a whiler and I think there is a general groundswell of support for it.
“If you look at France, they’ve had a mobile ban in place for three years and I think it’s gone very well. It’s a bit of a non-issue and I’m pretty sure that’s how it will be for here.”
Until last year, Dame Rachel was chief executive of the Inspiration Trust, an academy chain in the East of England, where pupils have to keep phones switched off and away.
She said that any ban in England would likely be along the same lines, with “Wi-Fi connectable smartphones to be left at home, or not used or taken out of the bag during school hours”.
While parents would still be allowed to give their children smartphones, Dame Rachel suggested that they might want to get them an old-fashioned “brick phone” instead.
“It’s the distraction in the school provided by that internet connection and all the harms that can go with it [that’s the problem],” she said. “We know that many underage children are accessing things they shouldn’t on the internet, and let’s just keep it out of school frankly.”
Banning phones in school would “take away the pressure a bit from parents, with younger and younger children having to be bought these handsets that are not cheap”, she said. It would also help “local policing not to have children walking to and from school with hundreds of pounds worth of handheld technology which could easily be a focus for pickpockets”, she claimed.
Some headteachers have objected to Mr Williamson’s position as an infringement of their autonomy, while others have said there is a role for phones in schools so teachers can teach young people how to use them responsibly.
However, Dame Rachel said she did not accept either of these arguments.
“I’m very pro autonomy… but something like this is just sensible, and when things work really well it’s good to scale them up to national [level], isn’t it?
“Teaching responsibility is really important, but I don’t think that needs to go with mobile phones in school.”
Dame Rachel, who has been asked by ministers to advise them on protecting children from online harms, said more needed to be done to prevent young people accessing social media and adult websites underage.
“I think age verification is a huge issue that needs tackling and can be tackled and not happening proper age verification mechanisms is causing all sorts of problems,” she said.
“We are talking to all the tech companies about how they can keep underage children off their social media sites, and what they can do to keep children safe, and I’m pushing on age verification.”
Source: i on MSN.com
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