Shepparton school principals welcome mobile phone ban

By Madeleine Caccianiga

The principals of Greater Shepparton’s four major public secondary schools have shown support for a Victorian Government initiative to ban mobile phone use in schools from next year.

Education Minister James Merlino announced this week that mobile phones would be banned across Victorian state primary and secondary schools to help reduce distraction, tackle cyber bullying and improve learning outcomes for students.

The ban will require students to switch off their phones and store them securely in lockers from the start of the school day until the final bell.

Mooroopna Secondary College, McGuire College, Shepparton High School and Wanganui Park Secondary College principals agreed mobile phones in the classroom were a distraction.

Mooroopna Secondary College principal Stephen Bolton spoke on behalf of the group of principals.

‘‘As educators we currently have strategies in place to manage the appropriate use of phones,’’ he said.

The principals agreed a consistent approach to mobile phones across the state would remove confusion about the ban.

‘‘We are always prepared to adopt measures that improve the learning environment and consequently outcomes for students,’’ Mr Bolton said.

The ban also accommodates latest research from Headspace stating about 53 per cent of young Australians experience cyber bullying.

‘‘With regard to cyber bullying, this would limit opportunities for students to have regular access to their phones, though the need for ongoing education in relation to the safe and appropriate use of phones would remain a priority,’’ Mr Bolton said.

The reason for the ban came after a similar reform at Melbourne’s McKinnon Secondary College, which saw benefits of a mobile phone ban on student learning and social behaviour.

Mr Merlino said teachers at the school reported students to be more focused during class and communicating more in the school yard.

‘‘This will remove a major distraction from our classrooms, so that teachers can teach, and students can learn in a more focused, positive and supported environment.’’

Mr Merlino said the only exceptions to the ban would be where students used phones to monitor health conditions, or where teachers instructed students to bring their phone for a particular classroom activity — at all other times phones must be in lockers.

‘‘When emergencies occur, parents or guardians can reach their child by calling the school,’’ Mr Merlino said.

Tallygaroopna mother-of-three Robyn Boschetti said the mobile phone ban raised concerns for rural communities.

‘‘I don’t think it’s a bad idea because kids don’t need their phone in the classroom, however, if this new super school goes ahead and my son goes over to Mooroopna he is going to have a phone and he will have it on him for immediate communication,’’ she said.

‘‘If he misses the bus or something goes wrong he can text me and let me know he’s okay and where he is.’’

In Term 3 2019, the Department of Education and Training will work with principals to develop detailed advice and resources as schools prepare to introduce this policy next year.

A review will be conducted at the end of 2020.

Editorial, Page 12.