Mobile phones

Fully ban phones in schools if crackdown doesn’t work, say MPs

Committee also calls for 'kitemarking' for education apps and better digital literacy education as it raises concerns over data and privacy

Committee also calls for 'kitemarking' for education apps and better digital literacy education as it raises concerns over data and privacy

25 May 2024, 0:01

More from this author

The government must introduce a statutory ban on mobile phones in schools if its current crackdown on the devices proves ineffective, MPs have said.

They made the recommendation in a new education committee report published this morning following an inquiry into the impact of screen time on children’s outcomes and wellbeing.

Former schools minister Robin Walker, who chairs the committee, warned that “without urgent action, more children will be put in harm’s way”.

Here are the report’s key findings…

1. Minimise screen time on phones

The committee heard “strong evidence that smartphones and computers disrupt pupils’ learning both at home and in the classroom”.

It can take “up to 20 minutes” for youngsters to refocus after “browsing the internet or noticing a notification” on their mobile.

The harms of screen time and social media use “significantly outweigh the benefits for young children, whereas limited use of screens and genuinely educational uses of digital technology can have benefits for older children”, the report said.

“Government needs to do more across departments to protect them from addiction, online harms and the mental health impacts of extensive use of devices.”

2. ‘Ban’ on phones could go further

The committee welcomed the government’s non-statutory guidance, released in February, which stated schools should “develop a mobile phone policy that prohibits the use of mobile phones and other smart technology” throughout the day.

Robin Walker

However, it heard mixed evidence on how well this will be taken up. It recommended formal monitoring and evaluation to be undertaken, with the results published and shared with leaders.  

If they show the guidance has been “ineffective in 12 months, the government must move swiftly to introduce a statutory ban”.

“[It] must also ensure parents are not prevented from being able to contact their children during their commute to school. The [current] guidance should be changed by July to prevent schools from insisting mobile phones are left at home.”

Committee members also believe the next government should work with Ofcom to consult on additional measures around mobiles. These include a total ban on smartphones for under-16s.

3. ‘Kitemarking scheme’ for education apps

The committee said many schools “encourage the use of educational apps to support learning and engage pupils” in subjects like maths, despite there being a “poor evidence base” on which ones are best.

Official guidance should be produced “within a year” for parents and schools on the efficacy of such websites and apps.

Along with this, MPs want ministers to support a “kitemarking scheme” for these online resources in the first 12 months of the new Parliament.

They should also encourage tech firms “to introduce standards for the use of educational labels and to remove apps which do not offer educational benefit”.

4. Improve digital literacy curriculum

The government has been told to “embed additional core content on online safety” into ICT training and the early career framework for all teachers.

The committee said PSHE, which covers digital literacy among other things, cannot be adequately evaluated solely within Ofsted’s current personal development metric.

Instead, the subject should be checked using thematic reviews, like other core curriculum topics.

5. Concerns over ‘data and privacy’

The UK’s edtech sector is the largest in Europe, according to the study. Despite acknowledging it can provide “some benefits”, the committee is “concerned about the implications of edtech and Al on children’s data and privacy”.

The next government should “produce a risk assessment on the use of edtech and Al in schools as soon as possible, and particularly on the extent to which it poses a risk to the security of children’s data.

“The safety and reliability of edtech should also be assessed by Ofcom both [as] it is introduced to schools, and periodically after it is brought into schools.”

Schools have also been told to regularly update and renew laptops and tablets “to keep them secure for longer”, as “edtech has more malware than all other sectors combined”.

In England, the digital age of consent, which is when a youngster can give websites the go-ahead to process their data, is 13. The report added the next government should consult on “whether it should be raised” and “recommend 16 as a more appropriate” threshold. 

6. Guidance for parents

The committee urged government to outline how parents can “best manage and understand the impact of screen time” on their children.

It wants the advice to state that youngsters “should not be able to access screens after they have gone to bed and should incorporate physical activity into their day”.

The guidance “should also focus on the ways in which parents can monitor use of devices, the uses of parental controls and how to deal with problematic screen use including when to seek help”.

Latest education roles from

Electrical Installation Trainer

Electrical Installation Trainer

Barnsley College

Sessional Science Lab Technician

Sessional Science Lab Technician

Merton College

Sessional Lecturer – Plumbing

Sessional Lecturer – Plumbing

South Thames College

EA to the CEO & Senior Directors

EA to the CEO & Senior Directors

Haberdashers’ Academies Trust South

Chief Executive Officer Cornwall Education Learning Trust (CELT)

Chief Executive Officer Cornwall Education Learning Trust (CELT)

Satis Education

Head of Faculty (History and RS)

Head of Faculty (History and RS)

Ark Greenwich Free School

Sponsored posts

Sponsored post

How can we prepare learners for their future in an ever-changing world?

By focusing their curriculums on transferable skills, digital skills, and sustainability, schools and colleges can be confident that learners...

Sponsored post

Inspiring Education Leaders for 10 Years

The 10th Inspiring Leadership Conference is to be held on 13 and 14 June 2024 at the ICC in...

Sponsored post

Inspire creativity in your classroom. Sky Arts’ Access All Arts week is back!

Now in its third year, Access All Arts week is a nationwide celebration of creativity for primary schools (17-21...

Sponsored post

Unleash the Power of Sport in your setting this summer! National School Sports Week is back!

Unleash the Power of Sport this summer with National School Sports Week powered by Monster Kickabout! From 17-23 June,...


Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

One comment

  1. Maria Awogu(nee Iwuagwu

    I welcome this move and so will most teachers. I have been teaching for 16 years or more. It is always phones and phones. Some headteachers do not know how to control their students behaviour.
    Behaviour policies need to be in place to check the use of phones during learning.
    Having taught in United States and here, I can see the difference