France is going to ban mobile phones in schools from September 2018 — a measure that appeared in president Emmanuel Macron’s campaign in the summer and will be put in place to “protect our students from the distraction of screens and phones” according to minister of national education, Jean-Michel Blanquer.
The ban will apply to all school pupils in primary, junior and middle school, between the ages of six to 15.
Further details of the ban are yet to be revealed, however the education minister has mentioned the possibility of using secure lockers in schools.
In the Council of Ministers, we put our mobiles in lockers before we meet, and it seems to me that this would be feasible for any group of people, including a school class.
However, Blanquer has faced opposition from many parents and the SNES-FSU teachers union.
Frédérique Rolet, the general secretary of SNES-FSU, felt the use of lockers would be “impossible” due to the risk of theft or loss. He said:
Students come in and out of school at different times…you would need to have enough teachers to watch over the students as they deposit their mobile phones and someone would also have to be there to give the phone back. There are more useful things to be doing.
There were further concerns that many schools in the city centre had insufficient space for a large number of lockers.
Teachers across France are sceptical about the law and whether there will be a total ban on mobile phones in schools.
Valérie Sipahimalani, assistant secretary general of SNES-FSU, told VousNousIls that students have phones in school because they “are given them by their parents…who want to be able to reach their child after school.
Many teachers have also raised the scenario in which a student refuses to abide by the rules. Rolet added:
Teachers do not have the right to search students…what do you do if someone has hidden their phone?
Lysiane Gervaix, the head of a school in Bordeaux, in an interview with BFMTV said:
How do you move forward? Will we have to install phone detectors? It will turn into a game of cat and mouse.
In a recent interview with L’Express, Blanquer acknowledge the current laws that prevent the use of mobile phones in school.
France’s so-called code of education says the use of a mobile by a student is prohibited “during any teaching activity” and applies to “kindergartens, elementary schools and colleges”.
The by-laws of each school then take over, potentially banning the use of phones in corridors or playgrounds.
However, it is widely recognised that the law is badly applied and therefore “legislative measures will be taken to facilitate implementation” according to one of Macron’s advisers.
With 8 in 10 students carrying a mobile phone Blanquer considers considers the ban “a public health measure”.