Mobile Phones in Primary Schools

Pupil use of mobile phones has featured in the news recently and there is a strong argument both for and against allowing pupils to use personal devices in the classroom.

However, the latest Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance (September 2018) highlighted the need for schools to have a clear policy statement on this and ‘carefully consider how access to 3G and 4G data is managed on their premises’, and also how they manage the increasing risk of ‘peer on peer abuse’.

This means that several schools are having to adjust policies to meet this requirement if they don’t have this in place already.  Most primaries who allow pupils to bring phones into school have a ‘hand-in’ policy during the school day and don’t allow mobile phones to be switched on once the children are in school time / on school grounds.  This often means these risks are less prominent in a primary school.  However, with the increasing number of younger children with their own personal device, it’s important that primaries still have a clear, considered approach to this.

If a school does choose to allow personal devices to be brought into school, they should complete a risk assessment to evidence whether the use presents any unacceptable risks and identify any actions they put in place to reduce that risk to pupils.

Questions they should ask include:

  • Do we allow pupils to have mobile phones on school premises? Why?  What’s the justification for this?
  • Do we allow phones to actually be switched on or used on school grounds / during the school day (including on school trips)? Again, why?  Is there a clear benefit / justification for this that make any associated risks worthwhile?
  • If pupils are allowed to use their phones on school grounds / during the school day, how does the school ensure that any content, contact and conduct risks are kept to an acceptable level (e.g. potential use of inappropriate apps, viewing / creating inappropriate content, making inappropriate contact with others)?
  • Are there similar situations where you’ve already made a decision on this? g. can parents who accompany a school trip take photos or videos of the children on a personal device?  What if they took the SIM card out? Can parents or siblings take photos / videos of children during school plays or assemblies?  If not, why not and is there any difference?
  • If a safeguarding incident were to occur as a result of pupils being allowed access to mobile phones on school premises, would you have done enough to prove that you’d acted to reduce the risks to an acceptable level?

There are likely to be other questions a school or setting needs to ask in order to complete a comprehensive risk assessment, depending on their individual circumstances.  Once a decision has been made, it is essential that policies (including AUPs) are adapted accordingly and adhered to.

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