A secondary school is charging parents £2 to get their kids phones back if they’ve been confiscated during the day – but it has now emerged this money goes to charity.
South Wigston High School in Leicester has a strict ‘no mobile phones’ policy – if a child brings one in, it must be handed into reception before the start of school and collected at home time.
Any urgent messages from parents to kids are passed on via the school office, or there’s a pay phone that kids can use when given permission from staff.
A section of the school’s behaviour policy, available to view online, states that students caught with mobiles will be expected to hand over the device to be placed in the school safe. “An adult will need to collect it and pay an administration charge of £2,” the website states.
After the Department for Education said schools cannot impose compulsory charges, the school said the charge was “optional”.
In the school’s policy, also available to view online, it states mobile phones are banned because they can be a “major tool” for bullying as well as being a distraction to learning.
Head teacher Susan Webb issued an update to the policy online, writing: “Although we request a £2 charity contribution when parents collect mobile phones, this is voluntary and no parent is made to contribute.”
Speaking to HuffPost UK, Webb said: “It has been the schools policy for 11 years. The students decide where the money goes. This year the charities are ‘Combat Stress’ and ‘Wishes For Kids’. It is purely a voluntary donation to charity, and it works – lessons at South Wigston are not disrupted by mobile phone use.”
Parents were told to write to Webb separately if they felt their child needed to have their phone with them at school.
When HuffPost UK asked parents their thoughts on the policy, they strongly disagreed – however this was before they knew it was a charitable donation.
A Department for Education spokesman told the BBC that Education Secretary Damian Hinds supported schools banning phones, “Head teachers know best how to run their schools and we trust them to make those decisions,” he said, adding: “Schools cannot levy compulsory charges for activities or items unless being charged for is optional.”
Webb reiterated the banning of mobile phones at the school in a newsletter to parents on 11 February, repeating the reasons stated in the policy online. Webb added: “Research shows that young people spend too much time attached to social media and the internet. Students at South Wigston are expected to talk and socialise at break and lunchtime without the “crutch” of social media.”
Health secretary Matt Hancock has previously argued that schools should ban mobile phones during the day, arguing that while he “enthusiastically supports” the use of technology for teaching, banning phones in schools is the way to go.
“Why do young children need phones in schools?” Hancock wrote in the Daily Telegraph back in June 2018, when he was Culture Secretary. “There are a number of schools across the country that simply don’t allow them. While it is up to individual schools to decide rather than government, I admire headteachers who do not allow mobiles to be used during the school day. I encourage more schools to follow their lead. The evidence is that banning phones in schools works.”
HuffPost UK has contacted South Wigston High School for further comment and will update this piece if they respond.