‘Pupils should hand over phones before lessons’

SCHOOL students should be forced to surrender their mobiles before going into classrooms after thousands of incidents of “phone abuse” were reported, an MSP has claimed.

Education spokeswoman Mary Scanlon: phone use damaging. Picture: Ian Georgeson

More than 2,000 instances of youngsters being disciplined for using phones in classrooms took place in Scotland’s schools over the past three years, data released under freedom of information laws shows.

The Scottish Government said it had issued guidance to schools on the appropriate use of mobile phones and tablets during lesson times. Under existing rules “teachers are able to judge” whether mobile phone use can be used for educational and learning purposes.

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However, the Scottish Conservatives have demanded a stricter policy on mobile phones in schools with students forced to give up their devices before entering class, saying students would have their phones returned at break times and before going home under the proposed shake-up in rules on mobile use.

Conservative education spokeswoman Mary Scanlon said the move is needed after data from councils showed pupils were punished for phone misuse on 2,175 occasions since 2010-11.

The MSP said mobile phone abuse was likely to be much worse, as the party said it had only obtained figures from a third of Scotland’s councils.

Some students caught misusing phones were expelled or suspended, although the bulk of offenders were given formal warnings or punishment exercises.

The news came after it was revealed earlier this year that more than 100 pupils had their exam results scrapped after being caught cheating with a mobile phone.

Ms Scanlon claimed the abuse of mobile phones at school could be “hugely damaging” to the educational achievement of students.

She said: “It is simply too easy for a pupils to access a mobile phone in their pocket, distracting themselves and others in the process. This is something parents and teachers want to see us get tough on – it should very much be the norm that mobile phones are handed over at the classroom door.

“An outright ban on phones from school premises would be excessive, particularly as children may need to contact parents at home time, but we have to learn to use technology responsibly. It can be a great learning tool, but it can also be hugely damaging.

“The figures here are only the tip of the iceberg, and given mobile phones are becoming more and more commonplace, I would urge councils to try and improve the way they monitor phone use in the classroom.”

However, the Scottish Government insisted Scotland’s schools had policies to ensure there was a “measured and robust response” to mobile phone misuse.

A government spokesman said: “We have provided guidance to all schools on how to include appropriate use of mobile and tablet technology in classes.

“Rather than impose a blanket ban on pupil’s property, teachers are able to judge when it will actually benefit a class to encourage pupils to do their own research in an engaging and memorable way.

“This guidance was developed by a broad group, including teaching unions and parents’ representatives, all of whom agreed that a ban would be ‘unreasonable and impractical’.”