All schools to consult parents, teachers and students on the use of smartphones

A new circular asks schools to engage as soon as possible on the issue

All schools to consult parents, teachers and students on the use of smartphones

Picture by: Jens Kalaene/DPA/PA Images

Education Minister Richard Bruton has published a circular to all schools on the use of smartphones and tablets.

It requires them to engage with parents, teachers and students on the issue.

The minister also reiterated his commitment that the use of smartphones in schools will be included as an item requiring consultation under the Education (Parent and Student Charter) Bill 2016.

The bill, which was approved earlier this year, is a new law which requires 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 Department of Education says the use of smartphones and tablets in schools is a "good example of the type of issue which requires consultation with parents and students".

The circular asks schools to engage as soon as possible with parents, students and teachers on if and how smartphones and other tablet devices should be used in schools.

Schools are to consult on the appropriate use, if any, of tablet devices and smartphones in school, issues governing the use of smartphones and tablet devices with regard to, for example, recording videos, taking photos - and if smartphones should be allowed outside of class time i.e. during breaks, on school grounds and after school.

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They will also examine the nature and scope of restrictions that might be applied by the school - such as age limits.

The department says schools should use the opportunity of the consultation to "raise awareness and promote a shared approach regarding the appropriate use of digital technologies in the school and home."

Publishing the circular, Minister Bruton said: "I recognise that the use of smartphones 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."