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Cell Phones Banned in the Classroom
A general lack of discipline in many UK classrooms has resulted in a behavior backlash and new rules that include a complete ban on the use of mobile phones at school.
The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (OFSTED) in the UK is an independent and impartial agency that reports directly to Parliament on its duties of inspecting and regulating services for children and young people in Great Britain, including those providing education. The job comes with the duty to inspect all of the schools in the UK and report on the conditions found. Recent concerns over the general lack of discipline in many UK classrooms caused the agency to take a harder look at the public school system there in an effort to crack down on those discipline problems.
The agency’s latest review of the schools in the UK shows they share many of the same types of discipline problems that plague schools in the United States. As in the U.S., serious and flagrant disciplinary violations at schools in the UK are usually handled on an individual case-by-case basis, but it is the persistent and ongoing low-level disruptions that can damage education for the well-behaved students in the classroom that have become the current focus of OFSTED. As a result, the agency is now recommending a complete ban on mobile phones for all students in UK schools.
As part of a proposed new inspection program that will be introduced during the next school year, OFSTED will go so far as to penalize those UK schools that fail to deal with persistent low-level disruptions in the classroom. If the ban on mobile phones is enacted, it could require teachers to enforce the mobile phone ban to avoid being targeted by OFSTED inspectors. OFSTED chief Sir Michael Wilshaw said the biggest discipline issue is the low-level disruption in the classroom that prevents children from learning effectively, and believes the phone ban should be applied across the entire country as soon as possible to cut down on the distracting effects of phones ringing during class and to put a halt to using phones for cyber-bullying and accessing pornography online while at school.
Although a few UK schools already have a ban on phone use in school, most simply require them to be kept switched off and stored out of sight. However, many teachers warn that if phones are allowed on campus at all, the teachers will have to make sure they are switched off all day long. Although the new rules will give teachers the right to search pupils for phones and confiscate them when found, most educators say that whether they are banned or not, the reality is that most kids will wander round using them whenever they please regardless of the rules.
Sir Michael said that supervisors will be expected to deal more effectively with teachers who cannot control their classrooms and those who fail to fire incompetent teachers should have their pay docked. He added that “Where head teachers find that teachers are consistently underperforming, where there is that low-level disruption in every lesson, no matter what the professional development taking place in the school, then action needs to be taken.” Sir Michael’s observations were in line with recommendations from the UK’s Department for Education that point to the fact that although it is the parents who need to determine whether or not their children should have phones at all, it is the responsibility of the individual teachers to decide if and when cell phones should be allowed and used in school.
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