Interaction with learners

Phone-free zone: mobile phone bans to improve protection and behavior in UK – Consumer protection

On June 29, 2021, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson issued a call for papers asking teachers, parents and other staff for their views and policies on behavior management ahead of the updates. planned non-statutory guidance from the government later this year regarding discipline in schools. This next step follows the ministry’s £ 10million Behavior Centers program, which pairs heads and leaders of England’s top performing multi-academy trusts with schools struggling with poor behavior and discipline. .

The six-week consultation aims to understand the policies and strategies that schools use to prevent and manage common challenges, and in particular, it will examine how schools’ behavioral policies and approaches in these areas have changed in response to the pandemic and to any successful practice. they intend to maintain.

Although the majority of schools have policies in place limiting the use of phones in classrooms, the rules and penalties have not always been applied consistently. As such, aside from taking into account school units and managed moves, the use of cell phones in schools is one of the many areas that the government is considering as part of the review.

The Education Secretary has previously claimed that cell phones can serve as a “breeding ground” for cyberbullying and there is evidence that banning cell phones from the school day has a possible effect on success. There are also clear links between screen time, social media, and poor mental health.

The recent statutory directive on “Keeping children safe in education” issued by the Ministry of Education on September 1 further stated that children’s unlimited and unrestricted access to the internet via mobile phones means that some children, when in school or college, have sex, harass their peers through their mobile and smart technology, share indecent images in a non-consensual manner (often via large newsgroups) and post and share pornography and other harmful content.

As such, the Department of Education clarified that schools and colleges should carefully consider how this is handled on their premises and reflect sexual violence and sexual harassment throughout their school or college approach. in terms of safeguarding and in their child protection policy, as well as implementing a solid policy on mobile telephony and smart technology.

Ofsted’s rapid review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges released in June this year further highlighted the use of mobile in the sexual harassment of schoolgirls, the majority of the more than 900 children and young people interviewed who had experienced some kind of unsolicited images or sexist comments. online or by mobile phone.

In light of its findings, Ofsted announced that it has updated its inspection manual to increase oversight of schools’ handling of sexual harassment, abuse and violence among students.

From September, when schools do not have adequate measures to protect students from such abuse, the protection will be considered ineffective and the overall mark will likely be “inadequate”. In addition to reviewing how allegations are handled when they occur, Ofsted will review the preventive measures put in place, including behavioral policies. Ofsted has confirmed that it is looking for principals to take a holistic approach and develop a culture where all kinds of sexual harassment is dealt with and punished.

… it has been recognized that this is an effective strategy to ensure that children are able to work and learn in a safe and secure environment, free from bullying, harassment, abuse and of violence.

Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman said there was a legitimate discussion to be had about the suitability of cellphones in schools.

While banning mobile phones does not address violence against women and girls outside school gates, it has been recognized as an effective strategy for addressing violence against women and girls outside of school doors. ensure that children can work and learn in a safe and secure environment, free from bullying, harassment, abuse and violence.

What can schools do?

As a result of Ofsted’s review and recent statutory guidelines developed by the Ministry of Education, schools should prepare for an in-depth safeguard policy analysis and understand what is expected of them in schools. circumstances.

We recommend that schools consider changing their back-up policies (if they haven’t already done so) to provide the safest environment for the community. This may include ensuring that protective information is visible in the school, providing anonymous reporting systems, and implementing consistent and robust policies with respect to cell phones.

While it is not clear at this point what the effect of the government’s review will be, there is speculation that a cell phone ban could be implemented as early as January 2022. In such a situation, the Department of Education will likely provide specific guidance as to how schools and colleges should apply these policies. Nonetheless, the following factors may serve as a starting point if your school or college is considering such a ban as part of its enhanced protection policies:

1. Communication

There must be clarity as to what the policy will involve, and it is necessary to anticipate any questions or concerns that staff, children and their parents may have. In particular, is the policy a ban, or does it focus on how and when cell phones are used?

It is essential to communicate the impending policy change before its implementation. In particular, it is important that the decision is formally shared with the staff before it is communicated to parents and students.

Additionally, you may want to think about how the school will communicate the decision to parents. This can include letters home, messages shared through the school’s social media account, and important announcements on the school’s website. In such communications, the school should further highlight the benefits of the policy, including the behavioral aspects of such a ban and the safety benefits.

2. Training

An important area mentioned throughout Ofsted’s report was the importance of effective training of staff, the designated protection officer and school governors.

As such, we recommend integrated training at the start of the academic term to explain the behavior policy to staff as a first step, so that it is applied consistently across all levels and to ensure that they take a thoughtful and appropriate response. Staff should be able to answer key questions regarding the policy, the interaction of the new policy with other existing behavioral policies and the sanctions in place.

In addition to understanding the policy and potential penalties, all staff should better understand and be able to identify the early signs of peer-to-peer sexual abuse, including online and via cell phones. The Ministry of Education report on “Sexual Violence and Harassment Among Children in Schools and Colleges” released on September 1 provides useful resources and toolkits for training on harmful sexual behavior and effective safeguarding practices.

3. Revise

Schools and colleges should ensure that they review and reflect on the policy at regular intervals, soliciting input from staff, parents and students.

In particular, schools should take into account the impact of the ban on young people with additional needs and pupils who learn English as an additional language.

The findings of the Ministry of Education’s call for evidence are expected to be released in the coming weeks. We will continue to monitor the outcome of the call for contributions and provide further updates on this topic in due course.

For more information on the recent updated statutory guidelines for ensuring child safety in education 2021, please see our article ‘Boys being boys’ canceled: Keeping Children Safe in Education (‘KCSIE’) 2021.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.