NSW high schools step up total ban on phones in classrooms

At least 160 schools in NSW are using lockable bags to store students’ phones during school hours, up from 100 schools in 2022. The company supplying the bags, Yondr, said Wauchope High School on the state’s mid-north coast was the First school to use the bags in 2019 and demand has grown rapidly.

Other public high schools that have started using the pouches in the past year include Davidson High School, Killarney Heights and Chifley College Senior Campus High School. Schools using Yondr bags require students to put phones in a bag that, once closed, cannot be opened again without picking a lock.

The Yondr Phone Wallet in action.

The Yondr Phone Wallet in action.Credit:Scott Krueger

Despite many school leaders warning of increasing student screen addiction, the issue of total phone bans has been hotly debated for years. The 2018 cellphone screening in schools led to a ban on cellphones in primary schools, but left secondary schools the option of whether students use them during class or in the playground.

Some teachers and school leaders have argued that students should be taught to use their phones responsibly and that outright bans should be avoided. There is also a lack of conclusive evidence for this.

NSW Education Secretary Sarah Mitchell said a one-size-fits-all approach to mobile phones in high schools is not workable.


“We cannot ignore the role that technology plays in our lives and it is important that students learn how to use devices responsibly,” she said.

A 2018 survey by the NSW Department of Education found that 70 per cent of high schools had implemented full mobile phone restrictions and 30 per cent had implemented either partial or no restrictions.

Secondary Principals Council leader Craig Petersen said the decision on phone bans should be left to school principals. “But if a school decides to ban them, the NSW Department of Education should support them.”

“Yondr bags are also expensive, so it depends on schools’ capacity to spend that money, which could be used for other things,” he said.


Psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg, who led the review of cell phone use in schools, told the herald Last year, a blanket ban was more urgent than ever after years of academic disruption and rising screen use during the pandemic.

Carr-Gregg said the fallout from the pandemic has put increasing pressure on governments to do “everything in their power” to improve students’ ability to learn and socialize away from the distractions of technology.

Minns said a blanket policy across the board would be easier to enforce and level the playing field among students from all schools.

“Parents across the state have told me about the impact devices like smartphones are having on their children’s learning and mental health. In the classroom, teachers don’t know if students are looking up a Shakespeare quote or watching a video on TikTok,” Minns said.

Katja Klikauer, a parent and vice president of Randwick Boys High P&C, said she felt phone bans had huge benefits, mainly to avoid distractions in class.

“Kids used to just stare at their phones before Randwick introduced the ban. Students said that without phones, they would play more, boys would play basketball during lunch and just chat with each other more,” Klikauer said.

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https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/nsw-high-schools-ramp-up-total-ban-on-mobile-phones-in-classrooms-20230201-p5ch50.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_national_nsw NSW high schools step up total ban on phones in classrooms

Callan Tansill

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