Mobile phones banned at WA public schools

Mobile phone use will be banned during school hours at West Australian public schools next year.
Mobile phone use will be banned during school hours at West Australian public schools next year.

Mobile phone use will be banned during school hours at West Australian public schools from next year, with the state government saying it will reduce distraction from studies and encourage face-to-face social interaction.

Students will also be prohibited from using smart watches, ear buds, headphones and tablets during class.

Pupils from kindergarten to Year 6 will not be permitted to have mobile phones in their possession at all, while students from Years 7 to 12 must have them turned off and out of sight.

Smart watches must be set to airplane mode.

Those who contravene the rules will, in the first instance, be forced to hand over the device, which will be returned at the end of the day.

A parent will have to go to the school to collect the device for second contraventions.

Exemptions can be made by teachers including for educational use or medical conditions.

"We want to create the best possible learning environment for WA kids, and our policy will allow students to focus on their school work, without the distraction of a mobile phone," Premier Mark McGowan said.

"The policy will improve the health and wellbeing of students, by encouraging children to connect socially in class and in the school yard."

Currently, some students text each other while sitting side by side at lunchtime, Mr McGowan said.

Opposition leader Liza Harvey said she backed the ban, which was already in place at some private schools.

"Kids are at school to learn, not to be distracted by their phone," she said.

Federal education minister Dan Tehan welcomed the "off and away all day" policy, saying it was a tough but right decision.

Mr Tehan said the Commonwealth put banning mobile phones on the Education Council agenda earlier this year and heard research that found low-achieving students benefited the most, equating to an additional 10 school days a year.

"We will continue to support all jurisdictions and schools to limit the use of mobile phones in schools," he said.

The announcement on Wednesday follows consultation with teachers, parents and students, and was made at Ocean Reef Senior High School, which has had its own ban since the start of 2018.

Australian Associated Press