The topic of banning mobile phones in the classroom is one which often arises and we have written about before.

The Department for Education (DfE) has published new guidance for schools in England on prohibiting the use of mobile phones throughout the school day.

The DfE explains that this non-statutory guidance should be considered alongside the behaviour in schools guidance which supports schools in establishing calm, safe and supportive environments conducive to teaching, and keeping children safe in education. 

What changes will teachers and schools need to make?

Essentially there are no significant changes which school staff or schools will need to implement. It is still for schools to decide how best to approach the issue. This non-statutory guidance will act as reinforcement for school policies and for parents if questioned on how mobile phones are managed on a school site. 

Teacher Tapp, which provides daily surveys of thousands of teachers, published data in January 2023 showing that only 1% of schools have no restrictions in place at all on phones in school.

The DfE explains that the move will bring England in line with steps taken by other countries who have restricted mobile phone use including France, Italy and Portugal.

For practical resources, the DfE has published a toolkit for schools, case studies of schools taking different approaches and advice on creating a mobile phone-free school environment.

Mobile phones in the classroom: summary of the guidance

The DfE explains that all schools should have a behaviour policy to establish and maintain high standards of conduct and behaviour. 

The new guidance states that schools should develop a mobile phone policy that prohibits the use of mobile phones throughout the school day, including during lessons, the time between lessons, breaktimes and lunchtime. Some latitude is given in the guidance for sixth form students.

The guidance lays out the options for schools to consider:

  • No mobile phones on the school premises; 
  • Mobile phone handed in on arrival;
  • Mobile phones kept in secure location, which the pupil does not access throughout the school day;
  • Never used, seen or heard.

Any changes to the school’s approach to mobile phones should be clearly communicated and school leaders should ensure that staff, pupils and parents are familiar with the implementation of the new policy.

Staff are guided to not use their own mobile phone during the school day for personal use, but the guidance acknowledges that there will be times when use for work purposes will be essential such as two-factor authentication. 

As part of the wider education of pupils the risk associated with mobile phones should be explicitly explained along with the rationale for the new approach to phones in school.

Powers of confiscation and search

The DfE notes that schools have the power to confiscate mobile phones. The law protects staff from liability for loss or damage provided they have acted lawfully. 

Read Searching, Screening and Confiscation guidance here. We have also published a support article on the topic of searching pupils at school.

Adaptations and outside school day

Schools have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to take such steps as is reasonable to avoid substantial disadvantage to a disabled pupil caused by the school’s policies or practices. Use of a mobile phone may be considered a reasonable adjustment. 

Equally, supporting pupils with medical conditions may mean that certain pupils use apps on their phone to monitor and manage their condition.

On residential trips it may be that staff manage the use in a proportionate way; guidance suggests that on school trips phones should not become a distraction from the educational experience.

Mobile phones in the classroom: minimising disruption

Clearly carrying a mobile phone has the reassurance that children can contact a parent should they need to do so and increases the safety of the child. 

The new guidance aims to impact the detrimental effect on education and guide schools to having a clear stance and policy on children bringing them to school.

Mobile phones and social media: other issues to consider

Some of our subscribers encounter employment-related issues regarding mobile phones and the use of social media. We have published the following support articles below which provide more information on ensuring you protect yourself when teaching:

If you are a current Edapt subscriber and you have any questions about your own school’s policy on mobile phones or have received an allegation about your own mobile phone use, you can contact us for support and advice.

Subscribe to Edapt today from as little as £8.37 per month to get access to high quality edu-legal support services to protect you in your teaching and education career.


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