England to ban use of mobile phones in schools

3 mins read

Tuesday 24 October 2023

Young pupil using phone at the desk in school

The Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan, has announced that schools across England should ban mobile phone use to improve behaviour.

New guidance for schools will support teachers in banning mobiles throughout the school day, including at break times.

But we urge schools to remember that mobiles phones must be allowed where they provide a “reasonable adjustment” under the Equality Act 2010.

The aim of the ban

The government says that the ban will “tackle disruptive behaviour and online bullying while boosting attention during lessons”.

The ban builds on a £10 million investment in behaviour hubs, which support up to 700 schools to improve behaviour. 

Contact’s view on the ban

While policies of limited phone use are already in place in most schools, the shift to a complete ban on phones in schools raises some concerns if not implemented carefully.

We recognise that the use of phones by pupils in school is often disruptive to education and learning and can exacerbate bullying. But schools must remember their duty to make reasonable adjustments to avoid discrimination.For disabled pupils or those with special educational needs (SEN) or a medical condition, this might be access to their mobile phone. This must be allowed.

Why is access to phones so important for disabled children and those with SEN?

There are various reasons why these children might need access to their phone. These include:

  • The need to speak to their safe person to help with regulation.
  • Access to assistive technology, for example pupils with selective mutism who use their phone to communicate, or those who are visually impaired and need apps to convert text to speech.
  • The need to use phones to monitor health conditions such as Type 1 diabetes. Phones are vital as they are used to read blood glucose levels, control insulin pumps and alert someone to when they are going into hypoglycaemia.
  • For those with complex medical conditions that cause them to collapse, phones allow them to call for assistance if they cannot alert anyone in the school because no one is near or can hear them. For instance, if they collapse in the toilet. 
  • Pupils with Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) needs often rely on phones to feel comfortable enough to attend school.

We are aware that this is a highly divisive subject. If you have views on the ban of phones in schools in England, you can join the debate on our Facebook page.

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