State government releases new school mobile phone policy

SENSIBLE: A new policy to restrict phone and personal device use in South Australian primary schools is expected to be rolled out in 2021. Photo: Supplied
SENSIBLE: A new policy to restrict phone and personal device use in South Australian primary schools is expected to be rolled out in 2021. Photo: Supplied

A proposal to restrict primary-aged students, including those in the country, from using mobile phones or personal devices in school hours is being pursued in a bid to ensure a "sensible approach" to learning.

The draft proposal, which falls under a new policy led by the state government, has now been released for consultation within South Australian schools.

According to Education Minister John Gardner, educators can now provide feedback on the draft policy, which is expected to be introduced in the state's government schools from next year.

The move comes as educators witness an increasing amount of students bringing their mobile phones and personal devices to school.

"We understand [for safety] that families may want their child to have a phone while travelling to and from school so they can contact them outside school hours," Minister Gardner explained.

"However, we believe that during school hours it is sensible for primary students to store their personal devices safely so they can focus on learning."

He stated that this new aspect of the policy will be "non-negotiable".

Secondary schools are expected to also adopt mobile phone policies that suit the circumstances of their school community, according to a policy framework that prioritises learning.

This draft policy - developed in close consultation with school principals, principal associations and senior school leaders - sets out a sensible approach to managing the use of mobile phones during school hours.

SA Education Minister John Gardner

"At secondary level, we understand that there needs to be more flexibility for sites to develop their own policies that reflect the needs of the school community," Minister Gardner said.

This includes some schools which actively use apps on the phone as part of their learning programs.

Furthermore, the policy does not apply to school-sanctioned 'bring your own devices' such as laptops and iPads used for learning purposes.

"This draft policy - developed in close consultation with school principals, principal associations and senior school leaders - sets out a sensible approach to managing the use of mobile phones during school hours," Minister Gardner said.

"...but we want to test it with our educators to ensure it is workable on the ground."

"Some teachers get their students to use their phones' camera function to photograph notes in class so they can stay engaged in their learning more effectively.

"And we note that a rule that is appropriate for a 12-year-old student is not always relevant for an 18-year-old.

He added that the draft policy provides a strong framework of principles, with the necessary element of local flexibility to accommodate the different needs of individual school communities.

This story Policy seeks to restrict student phone use first appeared on The Murray Valley Standard.