Parents, pupils and teachers to have their say on smartphones
Charter to cover use of devices in schools
Parents and pupils are to be given a direct say on the use of smartphones and tablet devices in their schools with a view to agreeing a code of practice.
Education Minister Richard Bruton is issuing a directive to school leaders to consult with parents and students immediately with a view to drawing up policies on acceptable use.
The discussions, which will also include teachers, will look at issues such as whether smartphones and tablet devices should be allowed and, if so, whether any restrictions, including age, should apply.
At primary level, the current general policy is that phones should be left at home or, if they are brought in, they should be switched off.
However, sometimes parents or students will argue that a smartphone is necessary for emergency contact purposes, in which case they will be allowed subject to certain controls, such as holding it in the principal's office.
At post-primary level, a ban on smartphones is deemed unrealistic, but teachers may confiscate them if students are found using them for unauthorised purposes.
The multiple uses of mobile phones and tablets has also made them useful for second-level students as an aid to learning or the use of a calendar app to schedule home study.
However, unapproved use of smartphones in the classroom is a growing problem, according to a recent survey of second-level teachers by the online grinds website, Studyclix.
A little over half (51pc) of teachers reported that students checking their phones in class was a hindrance to teaching and learning and 60pc want an outright ban on phones in schools.
The menu of matters the minister wants covered in the consultations reads:
Appropriate use, if any, of tablet devices and smartphones in school;
If smart-phones and tablet devices are to be allowed, in what circumstances and subject to what restrictions are they to be used;
Nature and scope of restrictions that might be applied by the school;
If smartphones should be allowed outside of class time, such as during breaks and on school grounds after school;
Measures to ensure a shared approach on the appropriate use of digital technologies in the home and during student's free time.
Mr Bruton said the use of smartphones and tablet devices in schools was a good example of the type of issue that requires collaboration with parents and students and which would be covered in the Parent and Student Charter soon to be introduced in all schools.
He said the use of smartphones and tablet devices by young people "is an area that has increasingly caused concern. New technologies are fundamentally transforming the world we live in.
"These changes offer fantastic opportunities for our young people but also pose potential risks, which we as a Government must respond to."
Legislation is imminent which will require every school to consult with parents and students on key issues and publish and operate a Parent and Student Charter in line with statutory guidelines. The overall aim of the Charter is to lay the foundations for open, progressive communication between students, parents and schools.
Mr Bruton said that parental and student engagement in the critical area of the use of smartphones in schools would be very valuable in ensuring that it can readily be included in the Charter when the legislation is enacted.