A new WA mobile phone ban will see students at all government primary and secondary schools across the state banned from using these devices during school hours from 2020 under the state’s new ‘off and away all day’ policy.
Announced by WA Premier Mark McGowan and Education and Training Minister Sue Ellery on 30 October, this move follows the upcoming ban in Victorian state schools that was announced in June.
After consultation with schools that already have successful guidelines in place surrounding mobile phone use, the WA Government will roll out its new mobile phone policy next year, which bans the use of mobile phones for students from the time they arrive at school until the end of the school day, including before school and at break times.
Along with mobile phones, smart watches, earbuds, tablets and headphones will also be banned, unless students are under the instruction of a staff member.
“We want to create the best possible learning environment for WA kids, and our policy will allow students to focus on their school work, without the distraction of a mobile phone,” said Premier Mark McGowan.
“The policy will improve the health and wellbeing of students, by encouraging children to connect socially in class and in the school yard. Some schools have already adopted this policy, and the results have been very positive.”
Students from kindergarten to Year 6 will not be permitted to have mobile phones in their possession during the school day.
Students from Years 7 to 12 must have their phones turned off during school hours and kept off and out of sight until the end of the school day. Additionally, under the new policy, smart watches must be set to airplane mode.
“Schools I have visited where phones are banned, have reported that a tough stance has been a game-changer for students and staff,” said Education and Training Minister Sue Ellery.
“Students are talking to each other face-to-face rather than texting and they’re not distracted from their work during class – overall those schools are much happier and connected places.”
Exemptions to the policy will be made for students with special circumstances. These instances are where a student needs to monitor a health condition, when under the direct instruction of a teacher for educational purposes or with teacher permission for a specified purpose.
Parents will be contacted with information on the policy, including an instruction to contact their school’s administration, should they need to get in touch with their child during school hours.
While both WA and Victoria have announced they will implement state-wide mobile phone bans in all government schools, and NSW has banned mobile phones in all government primary schools, these decisions have been met with mixed reviews.
Respected child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg has shown his support for the decision to ban mobile phones in schools and spoken about how this move can have a positive impact in reducing cyberbullying in schools.
However some, including Finnish educator and Gonski Institute Professor, Dr Pasi Sahlberg, have suggested that a blanket ban on mobile phones may not be the best solution.
“Blanket bans are rarely the most effective ways to solve behavioural problems, especially among young people. Teenagers were born in a digital world, their parents were not,” he said.
“Teens don’t know the world without smartphones. What young people are good at is finding a way around prohibitions.”