Study Reveals Phone Bans in Schools May Increase Student Performance and Well-being: Key Insights

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A report has suggested that headteachers should ensure pupils hand in or securely store their phones at the beginning of each day.

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According to a paper by the centre-right think tank Policy Exchange, criticism from parents, children, or campaigners should not discourage school staff from consistently enforcing bans on mobile phones.

The paper argues that an “effective ban” on phones may positively impact a school’s performance and offers “potential benefits” for pupil attainment and wellbeing.

This recommendation follows government guidance issued in February to schools in England aimed at restricting mobile phone use during break and lunch periods, as well as in lessons.

Policy Exchange conducted a study involving 800 primary and secondary schools in the UK, with 407 schools responding to questions about mobile phone policies.

The investigation revealed that only 11 per cent of secondary schools had implemented an “effective ban” on mobile phones, where they were either prohibited on-site or stored away in lockers at the start of the day.

More than half of the schools surveyed (52 per cent) banned phones during the school day but allowed students to keep them, while 36 per cent had a “partial ban.”

An analysis of responses from 162 secondary schools in England indicated a “clear correlation” between an effective phone ban and improved school performance.

According to the think tank, secondary schools in England with an “effective ban” were over twice as likely to be rated outstanding by Ofsted compared to the national average.

Furthermore, students at schools with an effective ban achieved higher GCSE results, with grades one to two levels higher than those at schools with more lenient policies.

The Policy Exchange paper calls on the government to monitor schools’ implementation of effective phone bans and recommends making the guidance “statutory and binding” if improvements are not seen within a year.

It also suggests that Ofsted conduct thematic work to understand barriers to the adoption of bans and how they have been overcome.

In a foreword to the report, psychologist Jonathan Haidt emphasized the importance of phone-free schools and advocated for phones to be securely stored at the beginning of each day.

Dame Caroline Dinenage, chair of the Culture, Media, and Sport Select Committee, stated that the data in the report sends a clear message to policymakers about the disruptive nature of mobile phones in education.

Pepe Di’Iasio, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, expressed that the issue of smartphones extends beyond school boundaries, emphasizing the need for better regulation of online platforms and improved mental health support for young people.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan reiterated the importance of banning phones in classrooms, citing their distraction and disruption to education.

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