Minister Bruton Announces Parents and Students are to be consulted on Use of Smart Phones in Schools

Use of smart phones in schools will be included as item requiring consultation in Parent and Student Charter

The Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton T.D. today announced that he will publish a circular requiring schools to consult with parents, teachers and students on the use of smart phones and tablet devices in schools. The Minister also announced that the use of smart phones in schools will be included as an item requiring consultation under the Education (Parent and Student Charter) Bill 2016.

The Education (Parent and Student Charter) Bill 2016, which Minister Bruton secured approval from government to draft earlier this year, is 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. This will ensure that there is always open, progressive communication between students, parents and schools.

The use of smart phones and tablet devices in schools is a good example of the type of issue which requires collaboration and consultation from parents and students and is ideal for testing this new approach. Pending the enactment of the Charter, a circular will be issued to all schools shortly, asking them to engage immediately with parents, students and teachers to get their views on whether they favour the use of smart phones in schools and if so, in what circumstances they should be used.

The Minister said that such parental and student engagement in this critical area in the coming months would be very valuable in ensuring that it can readily be included in the Charter when the legislation is enacted.

Schools will be requested to consult parents and students on the following:

Following the consultation, schools should update their policies, for example, Acceptable Usage Policy, policies on Bring your own Device/Technology. 

Schools may include using Webwise, a programme of support and advice which is funded by the Department of Education and Skills, and provides information to parents, teachers and students on a range of issues including sexting, online blackmail, popular apps and social networks, making friends online and sharing personal information. Webwise supports students to access and use the internet in a safe and ethical way.

Improving the information and complaint procedures for parents and students relating to schools is a key commitment in the Action Plan for Education, which aims to make Ireland’s education and training service the best in Europe by 2026.

Speaking ahead of the TUI conference today, Minister Bruton said: “My ambition is to make Ireland’s education and training service the best in Europe by 2026.

“I recognise that the expectations of our citizens is changing and I believe that our education system must respond to that change by ensuring open, progressive lines of communication between our students, parents and schools. That is why I am prioritising the enactment of the Education (Parent and Student Charter) Bill.

“The use of smart phones and tablet devices by our young people is an area that has increasingly caused concern. New technologies are fundamentally transforming the world we live in. These changes offer fantastic opportunities for our young people but also pose potential risks, which we as a government must respond to.  

“My Department supports schools in responding to these challenges in a number of ways through the provison of advice, training and other supports on the development of policies including  acceptable usage policies. Today’s announcement, that schools will consult with parents on the use of smart phones in their schools will ensure that parents,students and schools have a shared understanding of  the smart phone use policy their school has in place.”

The announcement is part of a suite of measures being introduced by Minister Bruton, including the School Admissions Bill which will reform information and procedures around the process of school enrolment, and the commencement of Fitness to Teach, which has now allowed complaints to be made about a registered teacher to the Teaching Council for the first time.