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Should mobile phones be banned in schools?

Caerphilly MS Hefin David with Bedwas High pupils Reggie Dovener, Nia Parsons, and Kaia Wells

THREE young people helped a Senedd member pen a speech questioning whether mobile phones should be banned in Wales’ schools.

Reggie Dovener, Nia Parsons and Kaia Wells – Year 9 pupils at Bedwas High School –  helped Caerphilly MS Hefin David craft the short debate on March 13.

Dr David told the Senedd the school’s digital leaders are calling for Welsh Government guidance on acceptable use of mobile phones to ensure consistency across Wales.

The Labour backbencher raised concerns about cyberbullying, warning a 13-year-old girl was recently attacked on school premises.

He said: “The attack was premeditated. Mobile technology was used to plan the attack by fellow learners, inside and outside the school premises.

“The attack was recorded by several pupils, and shared throughout the school and others in the area. They were plotting to do it again and put it on Snapchat.”

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Dr David said schools in Wales have their own policies, pointing out that guidance on prohibiting mobile phones during the school day has been issued in England.

He told the chamber Llanidloes High School, which has banned mobile phones during the school day, has reported a dramatic drop in cases of cyberbullying.

Dr David quoted Dan Owen, the school’s headteacher, as saying: “I used to go into the canteen and there was an eerie silence because they were all on their phones.

“Now they talk to each other more.”

Dr David said Ysgol Aberconwy, which locks phones away for the school day, has reported children are concentrating better as they cannot play on their phones during lessons.

The former university lecturer said some pupils feel mobile phones are needed to contact parents but this is not necessary as family emergencies can be dealt with by the school.

Dr David cautioned that pupils may need their mobile phones to pay for lunch in contactless canteens or to monitor medical conditions such as diabetes.

He said: “Another issue that was raised was that of learners who are also young carers. An individual who works with young carers told us that a ban would be horrific for them.

“They would be anxious about how their relative was throughout the day, and that worry would hinder their learning.”

Dr David added that pupils can use personal devices to access platforms such as Google Classroom and technology can aid pupils with additional learning needs.

Reggie, Nia and Kaia – who visited the Senedd with their teacher Suzanne John to watch first minister’s questions on March 12 – said: “Mobile phone use in a school is a minefield.

“Many learners feel mobile phones shouldn’t be banned. Many school leaders feel they should be banned to improve behaviour.

“Many teachers feel that they are a help and a hindrance. We feel that the education minister needs to give guidance to schools in Wales on acceptable use of mobile phones in school.

“He needs to give guidance on how schools should manage this from classroom level up to senior management level. The guidance should include young people’s views and teachers and school leaders should also be consulted.

“We would like to see consistency across Wales, and we would like to see cyberbullying eradicated from schools.”

Jeremy Miles, Wales’ education minister, heaped praise on Reggie, Nia and Kaia, who were watching from the public gallery.

He said: “I think we should maybe ask you to write more speeches that are delivered in this chamber. I hope Hefin won’t mind me saying but I saw a marked improvement in quality.”

Mr Miles argued against a blanket approach. He said schools are best placed to set local policies, with guidance to support them on the Hwb platform.

The would-be first minister told the chamber: “We need to ensure, though, that we teach our learners healthy habits and provide them with the skills to navigate the digital and online world, but also how to take breaks and move back into the real world again.

“That’s not just lessons at school; those are lessons for life.”

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