All Australian states and territories will be asked to ban mobile phone use by students during school hours.
The plan to be put to education ministers at a meeting in Melbourne on Friday follows Victoria’s decision to ban public school students from using their phones from next year in an effort to tackle cyberbullying and distraction in the classroom.
The devices have been banned in French schools, and Canadian provinces are looking at the policy.
Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan said he welcomed Victoria’s decision and hoped all other states and territories followed suit.
He will bring international experts from France and Canada to Australia in coming months to talk about their bans.
“With this move from Victoria my hope is we will see other states and territories follow suit,” he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.
“The best approach is they go into the school locker at the start of school and they don’t come out until after school is finished.”
He said phones were a distraction in the classroom.
“It’s very difficult for teachers to teach when they are trying to discipline against the constant use of mobile phones,” he said.
From term one 2020, Victorian students from prep to year 12 will have to switch off their phones and store them in lockers until the final bell, the state’s education minister James Merlino says.
Exceptions will only be granted to students who use their phones to monitor health conditions, or if teachers instruct students to bring their phone for a particular classroom activity.
In the case of an emergency, parents or guardians can reach their child by calling the school.
Mr Merlino said the ban was modelled on that of McKinnon Secondary College, a high-performing state school in Melbourne’s southeast, which found students became more focused during class and louder in the schoolyard.
“Students are more engaged in the classroom and in the schoolyard, they’re talking to each other rather than looking at their phones,” Mr Merlino said.
He said the move would also help “stop cyberbullying at the gate”, citing recent research from Headspace, the non-profit organisation for youth mental health, which found more than half of all young people have experienced cyberbullying.
“I know this won’t be universally popular, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the right thing to do,” Mr Merlino said.