The Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton T.D. has announced that he will publish a circular requiring schools to consult with parents, teachers and students on the use of smart phones and tablet devices in schools.
The Minister also announced 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. This will ensure that there is always open, progressive communication between students, parents and schools.
The use of smart phones and tablet devices in schools is a good example of the type of issue which requires collaboration and consultation from parents and students and is ideal for testing this new approach. Pending the enactment of the Charter, a circular will be issued to all schools shortly, asking them to engage immediately with parents, students and teachers to get their views on whether they favour the use of smart phones in schools and if so, in what circumstances they should be used.
The Minister said that such parental and student engagement in this critical area in the coming months would be very valuable in ensuring that it can readily be included in the Charter when the legislation is enacted.
Schools will be requested to consult parents and students on the following:
- The appropriate use, if any, of tablet devices and smart phones in school
- If smart phones and tablet devices are to be allowed, in what circumstances e.g. recording videos, taking photos etc. and subject to what restrictions are they to be used
- 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
- Measures to ensure a shared approach on the appropriate use of digital technologies in the home and during students free time and possible awareness raising initiatives
Following the consultation, schools should update their policies, for example, Acceptable Usage Policy, policies on Bring your own Device/Technology.
Schools may include using Webwise, a programme of support and advice which is funded by the Department of Education and Skills, and provides information to parents, teachers and students on a range of issues including sexting, online blackmail, popular apps and social networks, making friends online and sharing personal information. Webwise supports students to access and use the internet in a safe and ethical way.
Improving the information and complaint procedures for parents and students relating to schools is a key commitment in the Action Plan for Education, which aims to make Ireland’s education and training service the best in Europe by 2026.