There’s no arguing that mobile phones can be quite a distraction. A ban on mobile phones from “first to last bell” is being put into effect in Victorian public schools with the aim of cutting out that distraction, but also curbing cyberbullying. According to the ban, phones must be kept in lockers during school.
Teachers and students have mixed feelings, and Education Minister James Merlino recognises that the ban will ruffle feathers, but that it’s the right thing to do. “Teachers are constantly asking kids to put their phones away. This is common sense,” said Merlino. Having the phones banned will also help foster interaction, leading to students actually speaking to each other in the schoolyard instead of checking their phones.
The goal of curbing cyberbullying is a big part of the ban, though having phones put away won’t completely do away with the practice. Merlino explains, “We cannot stamp it out. It is going to occur. But we can take some real steps to reduce the level of bullying.”
Merlino pointed to other schools that have seen an improvement in their students after banning phones on campus. One such school is McKinnon Secondary School, where Principal Pitsa Binnion has noticed a difference. “Our students are more focused learners in the classroom without this distraction,” she said.
And it’s not just the teachers wanting the ban. Bundoora principal Ann Marie reported that the students in her school requested the ban.
“Students said it was things to do with bullying, distraction and one-upmanship. Because there’s some students who can afford very expensive phones and others who can’t afford any. The students were the ones who said everyone needs to get refocused on learning and to only use mobile phones as a tool.”
Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals president Sue Bell feels that a phone ban isn’t the answer, stating that taking phones away doesn’t teach the students to manage themselves. “I think it’s going to cause a lot of grief,” she said. “We don’t want teachers in conflict with students. Some students will want the ban, but many won’t.
“I’d rather have teachers in front of the class teaching and inspiring learning rather than standing at the door having students turning out their pockets.”