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Mobile phones banned from NSW classrooms

NSW is the latest state to restrict the use of mobile phones for school students, both in the classroom and during break times.

Students in public high schools across NSW must now have their mobile phones turned off and out of sight, as the NSW Government delivers its commitment to ban students’ use of phones at school from the start of Term 4.

Read the Term 3 edition of School News HERE

The ban comes into force after consultation with teachers, students and parents, and will apply during class, recess and at lunch. Students will still be permitted to carry a phone while travelling to and from school.

The ban on use of phones in public high schools fulfils a key election promise made by the NSW Government and will complement the ban in place in NSW public primary schools. The ban is one of a number of measures the Government is putting in place to improve the classroom environment and student outcomes.

The NSW Department of Education offered schools several options for implementing the mobile phone ban, and following consultation with their local communities most have opted for zero or low-cost solutions, such as keeping phones in lockers or off and away. Schools will determine how they enforce the ban and respond to any breaches.

Principals and teachers can authorise the use of mobile phones for educational purposes, or as part of a reasonable adjustment for student learning and wellbeing – such as monitoring blood sugar levels for students with diabetes.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Education and Early Learning Prue Car said: “This ban creates a level playing field across all NSW public schools, and means students can focus on what’s most important – learning in the classroom.

“It will help to provide more productive classrooms for students and teachers, reducing opportunities for distraction and cyberbullying.”

Managing and restricting mobile phone use at school is on the national agenda, with all education ministers agreeing to a national commitment to ban, restrict or manage the use of mobile phones in government schools.

It is hoped that banning the use of mobile phones during school hours will reduce the negative impact from inappropriate use of mobile devices, and reduce unnecessary distractions in classrooms to help both teachers and students focus on learning. Not allowing phone use during break times encourages students to use breaks as quality time away from screens. Reducing incidents of cyberbullying has also been cited as a reason for mobile phone bans. Face-to-face social interactions between students may also improve, as students are not one their devices during break times.

Victoria rolled out mobile phone bans several years ago. From Term 1 2020, phones brought to Victorian public schools had to be turned off and stored securely during the school day. A ban also came into effect from Term 1 2020 in Western Australian public schools, and Tasmania introduced a similar ban from Term 2 2020.

A mobile phone ban has been in place across South Australian public high schools since Term 3 this year. The ‘off and away’ policy was introduced to reduce distraction in the classroom and stop some of the bullying that occurs through social media, with both outcomes leading to improved learning.

From Term 1 2024, mobile phones will be banned in Queensland public schools. Principals and school leaders across Queensland have already implemented bans and been supported to do so: more than 95 percent of schools have a clear policy banning the use of phones during class times, with the remaining schools restricting usage informally.

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