School phone ban for 16-year-olds ‘very backward’ – principal

Two secondary school principals say they are not convinced a phone ban is warranted – and that it will be difficult to enforce.

Wellington High School principal Dominic Killalea said he would not be enforcing the government’s new cellphone ban in schools during student break times.

On Tuesday Education Minister Erica Stanford told RNZ schools that failed to extend the ban to breaks would be visited by the Education Review Office (ERO).

“It’s my expectation that they will follow this regulation. If they are not abiding by the ban then ERO will visit them, help them to work through what their issues are.

“The evidence shows that the mental health outcomes and the educational outcomes are improved when kids are unplugged for six hours,” Stanford said.

But Killalea questioned if ERO were the appropriate agency to enforce the schools’ adoption of the rule.

Wellington High School principal Dominic Killalea.

“The ministry seems to be asking ERO to do a whole lot of things that I wouldn’t have thought would be within their remit at the moment but perhaps they’re going to expand that remit to encompass things like that,” Killalea said.

Killalea said his school’s policy to treat student’s break time as their own had received widespread support from parents and students.

“We received over 500 responses from our community and the majority of those supported our draft policy. That was based around students not using their phones in class, that they’d effectively be silenced. We’re not requiring them to hand them in at the beginning of the day or anything like that and they would be able to use them at break times.

“It depends on what problem we’re trying to solve here. In the last seven years not a single student, parent or teacher has come to me saying we need to ban cellphones in class,” Killalea said.

Killalea said the practicality of enforcing the ban across his roll of more than 1500 students would place an unrealistic burden on an already stretched teaching staff.

“Teachers are surely entitled to breaks during the day. We do have people to do playground duty, we have a handful of teachers who will be going out and keeping an eye on what students are doing but the reality of actually policing that at break times is very difficult,” Killalea said.

Huntly College principal Rachael Parker said a mandated cellphone ban in secondary schools was a huge step backwards.

“When you take a 16-year-old in a secondary school they’ve got their immediate family, they’ve got their sports coaches, they’ve got their employers, they’ve got facets of people that actually need to rely on communicating with that 16-year-old. To not have that access until 3pm just seems very backward to me,” Parker said.

She said her school’s first day of having the ban in place had been positive but she was concerned about confrontation between staff and students escalating if students defied the rule.

“When those certain situations start to happen that’s when it’s going to be quite hard to enforce this ban. Personally, I don’t think it’s worth it,” Parker said.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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