Can teachers use mobile phones in school?

Overview

You might wonder if teachers are allowed to use their own personal mobile phones in school? Even though you might not be looking at your phone while teaching classes you might wonder if there are any rules or regulations on the topic. In this article, we look at different approaches taken by schools, safeguarding and data protection concerns and potential disciplinary sanctions.

Are teachers allowed to use their own personal mobile phones?

The Department for Education (DfE) has not published any set guidance on this issue. It will be up to headteachers and governing bodies to decide the best approach which works for their schools. Your school might have a policy on mobile phones which outlines how they should be used by pupils, staff, volunteers and parents.

You will want to read and understand the policy before using your personal mobile in school.

Examples of staff mobile phone policies from schools

Northowram Primary School in Halifax has a staff mobile (smartphone) use policy.

It explains the policy is designed to inform all staff of expectations regarding the use of mobile phones during working hours. It is intended to offer guidance to staff with regard to what constitutes appropriate (and inappropriate) use of mobile phones within the workplace. Key principles of the policy include:

  • Mobile phones must not be used for private or personal use during lessons or in formal school time. They should be switched off (or set to silent) at all times 
  • Use of mobile phones by staff during working hours for social networking activity (other than in accordance with curriculum use) is strictly prohibited
  • Mobile phones are not permitted to be used in certain designated areas within the school premises such as changing rooms and toilets
  • Staff members are not permitted to use their own mobile phones for contacting students or their families in a professional capacity (either on or off duty) other than in an emergency. In this contingency, staff should (wherever practicable) be issued with a school phone for this specific purpose

The policy explains the use of mobile phones by employees for the purpose of making or receiving personal calls and/or texts, tweets etc during the working day is discouraged for the following reasons:

  • It does not set a professional and positive example to pupils and parents
  • It is disruptive and interrupts lessons
  • It is often discourteous to colleagues (eg during meetings)
  • It is a misuse of the school’s time and has potential to impact adversely on the students’ learning

Great Chart Primary School in Kent has a staff mobile phone policy.

It explains staff are not at any time permitted to use recording equipment on their mobile phones, for example, to take recordings of children, or sharing images.

Legitimate recordings and photographs should be captured using school equipment such as cameras and Ipads. The policy explains:

  • Staff should have their phones on silent or switched off and out of sight (e.g. in a drawer, handbag or pocket) during class time
  • Mobile phones should not be used in a space where children are present (eg. classroom, playground)
  • Use of phones (inc. receiving/sending texts and emails) should be limited to non-contact time when no children are present e.g. in office areas, staff room, empty classrooms

What might happen if I break my school’s policy?

If you breach your school’s staff mobile phone you could be invited to an investigatory meeting to ascertain the facts and details about the incident. We’ve written another article which provides a summary on what to expect at an investigation meeting.

After the investigation meeting, you could be invited to a disciplinary meeting where one of the possible outcomes could be dismissal from your role. We provide a summary of the disciplinary process here.

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The information contained within this article is not a complete or final statement of the law.
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