Starting in Term 1 2020, mobile phones will be banned for all students at Victorian state primary and secondary schools to help tackle cyberbullying, reduce distraction, and improve learning outcomes for students.

Speaking at McKinnon Secondary College, Minister for Education James Merlino made the announcement today.

“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,” Minister Merlino said.

McKinnon Secondary College has banned the use of mobile phones in students and this has seen the benefits of learning and social behaviour. The school revealed that its teachers have reported that students are more focused during class and communicating more in the schoolyard.

“Our students are more focussed learners in the classroom without this distraction and we have observed improved social connections, relationships and interactions in the school during lunchtime,” Principal of McKinnon Secondary School Pitsa Binnion said.

According to the latest research from Headspace, around 53 per cent of young Australians have experienced cyberbullying.

“Half of all young people have experienced cyberbullying. By banning mobiles we can stop it at the school gate,” Minister Merlino said.

“All schools have a legal obligation to provide a safe environment in which to learn. This significant policy initiative is designed to ensure the well-being of young people while at school, free of distraction and potentially cyberbullying,” psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg said.

According to the government, teachers and parents also frequently raise concerns about the use of mobile phones during school hours as a cause of constant distraction in classrooms. The rolling out of a state-wide policy will provide consistency and certainty for parents, students and school communities.

Under the plan, students will be required to switch off their phones and store them securely in lockers from the start of the school day until the final bell. When emergencies occur, parents or guardians can reach their child by calling the school.

At all other times, mobile phones must be kept in lockers. The only exceptions to the ban will be where students use phones to monitor health conditions, or where teachers instruct students to bring their phone for a particular classroom activity.

The Victorian Department of Education and Training will work with principals in Term 3 2019 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.

To address mental health and bullying, the Victorian government has invested $51.2 million to provide government secondary school campus have a qualified mental health practitioner within the school. Another $65.5 million in student health and wellbeing will be spent to include anti-bullying and positive behaviour support.

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