Irish schools to consider ban on smartphones following experiment in Kerry
The announcement comes after a Kerry school banned social media and smart devices both in and outside class hours.
Schools will be required to speak with parents, teachers and students on the appropriate use of smartphones and tablet devices in places of education, following a circular from the Minister of Education and Skills.
The request was made in a circular published by Richard Bruton TD on Monday, in which he also restated his commitment that the use of smartphones in schools will be included as an item requiring consultation under the Education (Parent and Student Charter) Bill 2016.
The circular has asked schools to engage with parents, students and teachers on the use of such devices as soon as possible.
They will be required to discuss the appropriate use, if any, of tablet devices or smartphones; issues governing their use with regards to recording videos and taking photos; the nature and scope of any such restrictions; and whether they may be permitted outside class time, i.e. before and after school, during breaks, between classes.
Commenting on the circular, which comes as part of the Action Plan for Education, Minister Bruton said: "The use of smartphones and tablet devices in schools is ideal for testing this new approach and we are issuing this circular today to start that engagement.
"I’d like to highlight a recent example for how consultation between parents, teachers and students on this issue worked very well - St Brendan's National School in Blennerville and commend them for leading the way with their example.
Blennerville National Primary School in Tralee have been running an 11-week experiment, which placed a ban on students' use of smartphones, tablets and social media, both inside and outside school hours.
The 'Social Media Fast' was being run with full parental support, as a result of issues that had arisen from the pupils' use of social media and messaging groups.
Speaking to JOE, school principal Terry O'Sullivan explained how the school co-operated with parents in order to successfully implement the experiment, both in and outside school: "Outside school, you're dealing with a grey area. Our recommendation was to work with parents for 11 weeks.
"We all came to the agreement to remove their children from social media apps and to take the smartphones away from them. As we had seen before, you couldn't just delete the apps, because children found a way around it. So the devices were removed, both inside and outside the classroom."
O'Sullivan went on to note that the results had been positive so far, saying: "This has brought parents together as a group, and one particular parent has said that she has seen vast improvements in her daughter's behaviour.
"She's engaging in activities like reading, baking, talking and not looking at a screen 24-7. It's going in the right direction. I suppose they're finally doing what 11 and 12-year-olds should be doing."