Saturday, July 13, 2024

SA bans phones in schools

The South Australian Government’s ban on mobile phone use in public schools comes into full effect today, with the new rule in place at all of the state’s 158 public secondary schools.

The Government says the ‘off and away’ policy has been introduced to reduce distraction in the classroom and stop bullying that occurs through social media, with both outcomes leading to improved learning.

“We promised we would ban mobile phones in secondary schools, and we have delivered on that promise, working with schools to get it right. South Australia is leading the way with this policy with the nation paying close attention to what we’re doing,” said Minister for Education, Training and Skills, Blair Boyer (pictured).

“Some schools have even introduced the ban sooner than the Term 3 cut-off date, because they’ve seen the benefits their neighbouring schools were having. I’ve had principals telling me about how the culture in the school yard has changed because kids are playing together and chatting, rather than heads down looking at their phones.

“This ban is about better academic outcomes for students free from distraction, improved social skills development, and reducing cyber bullying.”

The policy will be in effect for the first time at 27 South Australian public secondary schools today, the start of Term 3, with the other 131 having introduced it earlier this year.

Some South Australian public high schools (including Area and B-12 schools) adopted the policy earlier, in advance of the state-wide ban from Term 3, with reports of improved student behaviour. This has been shown, particularly at break times, where teachers have seen an increase in physical activity and involvement in extracurricular clubs.

“I knew this was the right policy for our high schools as I had seen up close the damage that distraction and cyber bullying was causing at school. Bullying can be 24/7 for young people today, and there is no doubt in my mind that it plays an enormous part in the deteriorating mental health of students,” said Minister Boyer.

“Every time I speak with a student, parent, grandparent or carer, I am more convinced that this was the right thing to do.”

He said the success of the ban in South Australia has been watched closely by other states, with the new NSW Labor government recently announcing its own school phone ban.

In SA, all public high school students must switch their devices off or onto flight mode and put them away during school hours, during break times and on school excursions.

“We have been working closely with our students and staff ahead of this policy fully coming into place at Norwood International High School, so everyone is prepared,” said Principal of Norwood International High School, Jacqui van Ruiten.

“Our students are global citizens of a technologically rich world and while we acknowledge that mobile devices can provide a positive platform for learning, excessive use can negatively impact on physical and mental health, social interactions, and attention to learning.

“During our consultation earlier this year, we became aware that some students have been using their phones to pay for items from will the vending machines or at the canteen, however, we have worked with our school community to highlight that there are a number of alternative options including the use of cash, debit/EFTPOS card or the QKR app before the start of the school day.

“Our school also has more than 30 clubs and extracurricular activities available to our students, so there are plenty of options available for everyone as they reconsider the use of the time that might have been spent scrolling on mobile devices in the past.”

The rollout of the policy is being supported through the recently announced State Budget with $515,000 to assist schools with practical requirements such as pouches, lockers or other infrastructure to implement the policy.

The policy specifically bans all personal devices with the capability to connect to internet networks including mobile phones, tablets and smart watches, but does not apply to school-owned technologies or learning devices brought under Bring Your Own Device programs.

Principals can also approve individual student exemptions in specific circumstances.

Each school determines the best way to store students’ devices whether that be in their locker, schoolbag, lockable pouch, handed into the teacher or stored in another secure location.

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