Interview - ABC Brisbane
SUBJECT: A national approach to phones in schools
REBECCA LEVINGSTON: Should there be a national approach to mobile phones in schools? You heard the Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk say she thinks so. And in fact, yesterday, Queensland's Education Minister met with her federal counterpart. Jason Clare is the Education Minister in Australia. Minister, good morning.
JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Good morning, Rebecca. How are you?
LEVINGSTON: Well, thank you. Will there be a national approach to mobile phones in schools?
CLARE: I think the time has come for a national approach to the banning or the restriction on the use of mobile phones by students in schools. I had a good chat with Grace yesterday. At the moment, there's different approaches in different states. Some states ban the use of phones in primary schools, others ban it in primary schools and high schools. In other places, they leave it to the judgement of the principals. In some places, the rule is put your phone turned off in your bag. In others, they use these magnetic pouches. So, I think there is a good argument that we should be moving to a national, best-practice approach. I'm intending to put this on the agenda when Education Ministers meet again in the middle of this year, but also not make the decision on our own; talk to parents, talk to principals, talk to teachers about what's the best approach to take.
LEVINGSTON: Yeah. And why, Minister, what's concerning you about mobile phones in schools?
CLARE: If you're focused on your phone, you're not listening to the teacher. That's the fundamental point. That's what parents tell me. I was at my old high school last week and I was talking to students there. They said to me, number one, if the phone is in your bag or if it's put away, you're not reflexively looking at it. You're focused on what's going on in the classroom. But also at lunchtime, instead of looking at your phone, you're talking to your friends or you're playing sport, you're doing the sorts of things that we did when we were at school, when phones were never there.
LEVINGSTON: Do you think it'll also help with issues around things like cyber bullying, bullying and sexting?
CLARE: To an extent. I asked this question of the students at my old high school last week and they said it means that's not in your face when you're at school, but of course, when school ends and you turn your phone back on, it's there again. So, it doesn't get rid of the challenge and the problem of cyber bullying, that's always going to be there, that's a bigger problem we need to face. That doesn't mean that making sure that phones aren't in the classroom or in the playground when children are at school isn't a good thing to do.
LEVINGSTON: Yeah. Jason Clare, the Federal Education Minister, saying it is time for a national approach to mobile phone use in schools. I was speaking to the Secondary Principals' Association earlier this morning, Minister, and they support that as well. And I know you said you're going to talk to principals, presumably teachers and parents as well. But what form do you see the ban taking? Like they put it into a locker - have you thought about the logistics of it?
CLARE: It might be different things in different states. It certainly is at the moment. There are some states where the students are required to put the phone turned off into a magnetic pouch and they keep it with them. In other jurisdictions, I've seen examples of where the phone is simply turned off and put in the bag. I'm not sure if it happens here in Australia, but certainly overseas you see it put in locker-type devices as well. These are all the sorts of things that we can look at, but the fundamental thing is; if the phone is turned off, if you're not looking at it, you're more likely to be paying attention in class, listening to the teacher and learning, which is what school is fundamentally all about.
LEVINGSTON: When are you meeting next with your state and territory counterparts in education?
CLARE: Middle of the year. In a couple of months, we'll be looking at that. We're also going to be looking at the ChatGPT technology, which enables students to learn using AI, but can also enable students to cheat. And in some states, they've banned it in classrooms, in others they haven't. That's another example of where we're looking to develop a national approach for use in all our schools.
LEVINGSTON: Really appreciate your time this morning, Minister. Thanks so much.
CLARE: No worries at all. Thanks, Rebecca.
LEVINGSTON: Jason Clare, the Federal Education Minister, saying it is time for a national approach to mobile phones in schools.