UK

UK schools face prospect of ‘mobile phone free days’ as fears mount over sexual harassment claims

Pupils face ban on mobiles to create ‘calm classrooms’: Schools could outlaw phones in bid to crack down on bad behaviour under new plan

  • Education Secretary Gavin Williamson signals plan for a ‘mobile-free’ school day 
  • He claims phones can be distracting and potentially ‘damaging’ when misused 
  • Comes amid growing concern pupils are using their mobile phones to bully each other or for sexual harassment such as ‘up-skirting’ – which is a criminal offence 

Pupils’ mobile phones may be banned from schools in a drive to crack down on bad behaviour and create ‘calm classrooms’.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said yesterday he wants to make the school day mobile-free as the phones can be distracting and potentially ‘damaging’ when misused.

The idea is being considered as part of a six-week consultation, launched today, seeking the views of teachers and parents on how to manage behaviour.

Mr Williamson believes good discipline in classes is essential to help pupils catch up after the pandemic. 

It comes amid growing concerns that pupils are using phones to bully each other on social media or for sexual harassment.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson (above) has said he wants to make the school day mobile-free as the phones can be distracting and potentially ‘damaging’ when misused

Teachers have spoken about the growing trend of ‘up-skirting’ where boys take photos of female pupils and teachers without their knowledge.

Many schools are trying to ban phones in classrooms, but it can be a struggle when parents are not supportive. 

Mr Williamson said: ‘No parent wants to send their child to a school where poor behaviour is rife. Every school should be a safe place that allows young people to thrive and teachers to excel. 

‘Mobile phones are not just distracting. When misused or overused, they can have a damaging effect on a pupil’s mental health and well-being.

It comes amid growing concerns that pupils are using phones to bully each other on social media or for sexual harassment

It comes amid growing concerns that pupils are using phones to bully each other on social media or for sexual harassment

‘I want to put an end to this, making the school day mobile-free. In order for us to help pupils overcome the challenges from the pandemic and level up opportunity for all young people, we need to ensure they can benefit from calm classrooms which support them to thrive.’

The consultation comes ahead of planned updates to Government guidance later this year on behaviour and discipline.

It will also address suspensions and permanent exclusions of disruptive children.

Ministers have so far supported headteachers who want to exclude pupils, but Left-wing campaigners say disadvantaged children are more affected and youngsters become vulnerable to gangs. 

The Department for Education has already announced details of a £10million ‘behaviour hub’ programme.

Headteachers and specialists from schools with reputations for good behaviour are supporting institutions struggling with poor discipline. 

Kevin Courtney, of the National Education Union, said last night: ‘Talking about mobile phones is a distraction.

‘Schools generally have very clear policies and will not see the need for another consultation.’ 

Geoff Barton, of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: ‘The Education Secretary appears to be obsessed with the subject of mobile phones in schools.

‘In reality, every school will already have a robust policy on the use of mobile phones. It isn’t some sort of digital free-for-all. 

‘This is an operational decision for schools, not something that can be micromanaged from Westminster.’

Assume sexual harassment is happening, Ofsted tells schools 

Schools must ‘assume’ they have a sexual harassment problem and will fail inspections if they cannot show that they are tackling it, Ofsted has said. 

The watchdog has launched a historic crackdown on sex abuse in schools after hundreds were accused of presiding over a ‘rape culture’ by the Everyone’s Invited website.

In rules published yesterday, inspectors will demand to see how head teachers are preventing peer-on-peer abuse – both at school and online.

By 8am on inspection day, they must provide records and analysis of sexual harassment or sexual violence, as well as sexist bullying. 

Ofsted said yesterday: ‘Inspectors will expect schools and college leaders to assume that sexual harassment, online abuse and sexual violence are happening in and around their school, even when there are no specific reports, and to have put in place a whole school approach to address them.’

The rules, published in the official handbook for inspectors, will be in place from September. 

It is likely to lead to some otherwise good schools failing their inspections if they are slow to respond.

It follows a major review which saw inspectors visit the schools which were ‘named and shamed’ as turning a blind eye to abuse.

It found sexual harassment has become ‘normalised’ for children across the country. 

Julie McCulloch, of head teachers’ union ASCL, said the updated guidance is ‘welcomed’ and schools will be ‘totally committed to working with Ofsted to tackle these abhorrent practices head on’. 

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