Queries over phone ban

By David Kavanagh | posted on November 7, 2019

PUBLIC schools in the Great Southern are yet to determine how to implement a state-mandated mobile phone ban announced last week.

The policy, set to come into effect during the first term of 2020, will apply to all phones and devices, including smart watches and tablets, not used for educational or special need purposes.

Minister for Education and Training Sue Ellery told the Weekender it would be up to each school in the region to decide how to apply and enforce the requirement.

“Schools will use their existing disciplinary processes to apply the new policy,” she said.

“Most schools I have consulted with [that have already instituted a ban] have said when they first introduced the policy there was a spate of non-compliance.

“After a short time, kids learnt and breaches were quickly dealt with.”

Ms Ellery added that if confiscation of devices were an enforced punishment, the onus would be on schools to determine an appropriate storage approach or location for storage.

This could include student school bags, lockers or a secure classroom or administration office.

The Victorian government announced in June a similar plan to ban phones in public schools in 2020, while New South Wales barred the devices in primary schools at the start of this year.

Victoria also committed $12.4 million in August to deliver safe storage for students’ phones.

Ms Ellery did not say whether WA schools would receive additional funding, but noted they would be “well supported” in implementing the policy.

“The Department of Education has specialist staff that principals can call direct for advice on any changes they need to make to their current practices,” she said.

“A range of supports are available to schools such as template letters for communication with the school, P&Cs, school boards and councils.

“An online community has been set up to enable schools to share their resources and practical ideas.”

The Weekender contacted six public high schools throughout the Great Southern about their plans to implement the policy but most preferred not to comment.

North Albany Senior High School Principal Sharon Doohan said the school’s staff would work to determine how to apply the policy “over the next few weeks”.

“We will then provide further information to our school community,” she said.

Under the ban, students from kindergarten to Year 6 will not be permitted to have mobile phones in their possession at all during the school day.

Students from Years 7 to 12 must have their phones turned off and kept out of sight and will need to set their smart watches to airplane mode.

Premier Mark McGowan said the new policy would have multiple benefits for student learning.

He claimed it would reduce distractions in class, encourage socialising and combat cyber bullying by reducing “external issues being brought into a school via technology”.

“Some schools have already adopted this policy and the results have been very positive,” he said.