Use of smart phones in schools will be included as item requiring consultation in Parent and Student Charter
The Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton T.D. today (Monday the 21st of May) published a circular requiring all schools to consult parents, teachers and students on the use of smart phones and tablet devices in schools. The Minister also reiterated his commitment that the use of smart phones in schools will be included as an item requiring consultation under the Education (Parent and Student Charter) Bill 2016.
The Education (Parent and Student Charter) Bill 2016, which Minister Bruton secured approval from government to draft earlier this year, is a new law which will require every school to consult with parents and students on key issues and publish and operate a Parent and Student Charter in line with national statutory guidelines.
The use of smart phones and tablet devices in schools is a good example of the type of issue which requires consultation with parents and students and will be included as an item requiring consultation in the Charter.
The circular issuing today asks schools to engage as soon as possible with parents, students and teachers on if and how smart phones and other tablet devices should be used in schools, pending the enactment of the Charter.
Schools are required to consult parents and students on the following:
- The appropriate use, if any, of tablet devices and smart phones in school.
- The issues governing the use of smart phones and tablet devices with regard to, for example, recording videos, taking photos.
- The nature and scope of restrictions that might be applied by the school e.g. age grounds.
- If smart phones should be allowed outside of class time i.e. during breaks, on school grounds, after school.
- Schools should use the opportunity of the consultation process to raise awareness and promote a shared approach regarding the appropriate use of digital technologies in the school and home.
In carrying out the consultation, schools are encouraged to avail of the existing supports available to them, such as Webwise. Webwise, which is funded by the Department of Education and Skills, promotes the autonomous, effective, and safer use of the internet by young people through a sustained information and awareness strategy targeting parents, teachers, and children themselves with consistent and relevant messages.
The Department recognises that most schools will already have policies in this area, including an Acceptable Usage Policy, and policies on Bring your own Device/Technology. These policies may have to be updated following on from the consultation process.
Publishing the circular, Minister Bruton said:
“I recognise that the use of smart phones and tablet devices by our young people is an area that has raised concerns. New technologies are fundamentally transforming the world we live in. While these changes offer fantastic opportunities for our young people they are also associated with potential risks, which we as a Government are responding to.
“As part of the Action Plan for Education, our plan for making Ireland’s education and training service the best in Europe by 2026, we are bringing in a new law which will require every school to consult with parents and students on key issues and publish and operate a Parent and Student Charter in line with national statutory guidelines.
“The use of smart phones 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.
“New technologies can open up a world of opportunity for our young people but we must harness their potential and ensure that parents, students and schools have a shared understanding of their use our education system.”