Phone use banned in French schools from rentrée 2018

Smartphones and other devices are to be definitively banned from schools and colleges in France from September 2018 after the Assembly voted in favour of the move this week.

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The ban was first proposed to the Assembly in June this year, with the decision now definitively taken in favour.

Parliament will now adopt the measure, and implement it across primary schools, collèges and certain lycées across the country from la rentrée this year onwards.

Students will not be able to use or access their smartphones or devices for the entire school day, including during breaks - except in establishments or circumstances allowing “specific authorisation”, such as for an urgent medical issue.

This is to encourage device-free interaction, stop distraction and notification noise during lessons, and reduce social media use and online bullying among young people.

The move will also target the playing of games such as the hugely-popular Minecraft and Pokémon Go.

As Jean-Michel Blanquer, national education minister, has said: "Being open to future technology does not mean we have to accept it at all times or uses."

Over half of schools across France are said to already ban phones in schools, but this measure is expected to help them enforce their rules by law, and encourage other schools to follow suit.

According to the new rules, schools will be free to enforce the law as they see fit.

Some may ask students to keep phones away in bags and lockers, or may demand that students leave their phones at home in the first place.

Punishments for non-compliance may range from confiscating the phone on the spot - and only returning it at the end of the day - as well as after-school detention-style punishment, or calling parents into the school.

The ban has been hailed as a key success for President Emmanuel Macron, who promised to address the problem of phone and device usage in schools in his presidential election campaign.

The ministry of education has also championed the move as part of its mission to significantly reduce screen time for children “before the age of seven”.

The measure was supported by the LREM, MoDem, and UDI-Agir-Indépendents parties, with 62 votes in favour, versus just one against.

However, the LR party, the socialists, the communists, and Insoumis abstained from voting, calling the measure an “ad-hoc... political demonstration...that will not change anything”.

Other critics have expressed concern, including La Peep, one of the two largest public school parent groups.

La Peep president, Gérard Pommier, said: “We do not think the conditions are right. Imagine a college of 600 students. Are they all going to put their phones into one big box? Where are schools going to keep them? And how will they make sure they get back to their owner?”

Others have argued that stopping phone usage at school will not stop social media or online bullying, as it will simply continue after school hours.

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