Textbooks over Texting: NSW government enforces high school phone ban

Textbooks over Texting: NSW government enforces high school phone ban

The newly-elected New South Wales government has kept its election promise to ban mobile phones in public high schools from later this year. With a ban already in place in primary schools across the state, the new policy will bring high schools in line with schools in South Australia, the Northern Territory, Victoria, and Western Australia.

The only jurisdictions in Australia where the ban is not yet in place are Queensland and Tasmania.

The ban will apply during class, recess, and lunch times, just as it does in NSW public primary schools. Students will still be allowed to carry their phones while traveling to and from school.

Some high schools have already implemented their own phone bans, including requiring phones to be put in lockable pouches, lockers, or bags, or simply asking students to hand in their phones at the beginning of the day.

The Premier and Deputy Premier of NSW recently met with students, teachers, and education leaders at Condell Park High School, which has had a mobile phone ban in place for the past 16 years.

"I know many parents who are anxious about the pervasiveness of phones and technology in our children’s learning environments. It’s time to clear our classrooms of unnecessary distractions and create better environments for learning," said Chris Minns, NSW Premier.

Prue Car, NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Education and Early Learning added that a blanket ban in high schools will create a level playing field, reduce distractions in classrooms, address cyberbullying issues, and improve student learning outcomes.

"We know that parents across the state are concerned about the impact that devices like smartphones are having on their kids’ learning and mental health. Condell Park High School has successfully banned student mobile phones for 16 years with benefits to student learning and behavior," she said.

Condell Park High School Principal Susie Mobayed explained that students deposited their phones on trolleys at the start of the school day and picked them up at the end of the day.

"This means teachers and students are focusing on teaching and learning with no interruptions. There’s also no room for cyberbullying, social media, or taking photos and videos during the school day. Our approach is strongly supported by our P&C and parents," she said.

Many educators and researchers agree that removing the addictive distraction of mobile phones can reduce cyberbullying and improve grades.

Trials and bans on mobile phones in schools are in place in several countries globally, and research from Spain and England has shown positive impacts on students' well-being, bullying, and educational outcomes.

Over 320,000 students in NSW public high schools will have their phones restricted on campus from term four.

The ban will be applied with common sense and in consultation with experts to ensure it works to improve student learning outcomes.