NSW behind as other states ban mobile phones in high school
Pressure is mounting on NSW to completely ban mobile phones in high schools as other states forge ahead with the tough new restrictions aimed at reducing cyber-bullying and helping kids to concentrate in class.
The NSW government ruled out a ban on phones in public high schools following an Education Department review of the system last year.
The review claimed principals could instead "opt into" restricting devices or "pursue the approach that best suits their circumstances".
But concerns about the NSW strategy have remerged this week as Tasmania became the third state to completely ban phones in schools.
Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan on Thursday said that after leading the country with a ban on phones in primary schools, NSW was now falling behind other states who have extended the "common sense" measure to secondary schools.
"Victoria, Western Australia and now Tasmania have all announced tough bans on mobile phones in the classroom at the primary and secondary school level," Mr Tehan said.
"The federal government wants all states and territories to follow their lead, including NSW," he said.
"High school students are at the most important stage of their education and they're most at risk of being distracted by mobile phones."
A spokesman for the NSW Department of Education on Thursday said there were "no plans" to introduce mandatory ban on mobile phones in secondary schools.
NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said the government instead wanted to give schools "flexibility" to balance the "benefits and risks" of the technology.
"Technology plays an important and increasing role as students progress through their education," she said.
The 2018 NSW review found a lack of peer-reviewed evidence to suggest that mobiles in high school increased the risk of harm, including cyber-bullying.
But it also noted there was anecdotal evidence, and said that the lack of academic studies had not stopped other countries - including the UK, France and parts of the US - from banning mobile phones in high school.
Several private secondary schools in NSW have already banned mobile phones.
These include The King's School in North Parramatta, Ravenswood School for Girls, Newington and Meriden.
The King's School has banned phone use for all students up to Year 10 between the first and last bell of the day, while laptops are banned in the playground.
Deputy Headmaster Stephen Edwards said the school enacted the ban to encourage students to better interact.
"We have a beautiful environment and we wanted the boys to engage with that environment and engage with each other," he said.