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de Souza wants to check how many schools ban phones

The children’s commissioner wants to use her statutory powers to “check every school in the country to see who is and isn’t” banning mobile phones.

Dame Rachel de Souza, a former headteacher, said there currently isn’t a “clear picture” on how many schools already stop pupils using their devices, but her gut feeling “is that most do restrict mobile phone use”. 

It follows the Department for Education publishing non-statutory guidance on managing the use of mobile phones this week.

de Souza told the education committee: “One of the pieces of work I’d like to do is actually to check, to actually use my statutory powers, to check every school in the country to see who is and who isn’t, to understand that, because I don’t think we’ve got a clear picture.”

The children’s commissioner’s powers allow her to request data from authorities. For example, she requested data from police forces on strip searches of children following the child Q case. 

de Souza added: “I think the best contribution I can make is to actually find out whether there are any schools that actually don’t ban mobile phones and to understand that.”

Schools Week has asked her office if she will go ahead with this project.

de Souza welcomed the guidance as it “really gives more power to the elbow of heads to be able to go the whole hog and deal with this. We want our children in school talking to each other, learning those social skills”.

Teacher Tapp data from January last year showed that 80 per cent of schools surveyed had some sort of mobile phone banning policy, up from around two-thirds in June 2018. 

‘Sex ed on TikTok’

de Souza also told MPs we need to “lean in” to a proper relationships, sex and health education curriculum. DfE is currently reviewing this. 

She said with sexually transmitted infection rates rising, “that to me speaks of kids getting their sex education from TikTok and not being taught by the trusted adults at school in a proper way and by their families”. 

“Heads say to me I’m not sure what the guidance is and we need to be giving them the really strong supportive guidance to be doing this work. Those figures are absolutely shocking.”

de Souza also questioned why Ofsted did “subject reviews on every subject but not RSHE?”

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