By Jeremy Rockliff
Minister for Education and Training,
Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing
THE Liberal Government wants to provide the best possible learning environments for each and every Tasmanian student.
While electronic devices do have a place in learning, we also need to acknowledge the issues that can occur when their use is not regulated.
This can include cyberbullying and serious distraction from learning.
That’s why the Government will ban the use of mobile phones at Tasmanian Government schools from term two this year, from bell to bell.
Tasmanian schools currently set their own policy and rules on the use of personal mobile devices by students.
This varies between schools and, in some cases, between teachers in the same school.
As Minister for Health and Wellbeing, I recognise schools are places that develop the social and emotional skills of learners and should encourage healthy, positive personal interactions.
We know that one of the best ways to do this is to foster learners’ social connectedness, sense of belonging and purpose at school.
We have heard firsthand from schools around Tasmania that mobile phone restrictions have helped student wellbeing and social connection in class and the school yard, with more face-to-face talking.
I want this for all Tasmanian schools.
The new policy will be introduced in term two next year and will apply to students from primary school to year 12.
It will require students to have their phones “off and away all day” from the first bell to the last bell.
This policy follows significant consultation with educators, students and families, and an online survey, which ran in early 2019.
Overall feedback indicated that 71 per cent thought it was “not important” or “not important at all” for students to have access to personal mobile phones during the day.
Fifty-eight per cent indicated they had witnessed the adverse impacts from personal mobile phone use in schools, such as distraction from learning or accessing social media.
This new policy also brings Tasmania in line with a number of other states that have moved to impose restrictions on mobile phones.
The rationale for restrictions in other states aligns strongly with our findings, including reducing distraction in the classroom, improving learning outcomes for students and tackling cyber-bullying.
Importantly, there will be exemptions made for special circumstances, such as where a student needs to monitor a health condition or is under the direct instruction of a teacher for educational purposes.
Years 11 and 12 will retain an “opt out” option, subject to approval and in consultation with a school’s School Association.
This policy is a part of the Liberal Government’s plan for improving education and student engagement in Tasmania.