Ban on phones in New Zealand schools kicks in on Monday

When students return to school for Term 2 on Monday, the Government's much-talked-about cellphone ban comes into force across the New Zealand education sector.

And with that, parents are being urged to have 'that conversation' with young people beforehand. 

The regulations require schools to ensure students do not use or access a phone while they are attending school, including during lunch time and breaks. This includes students who are on a school course or visit outside the school grounds.

Many, like year 13 Auckland Baradene College student Sarah Pratley's school have been enforcing the rule for awhile - but from Monday it's a Government requirement.

"I think it will definitely affect the younger ones more than like year 13s who're quite good at engaging with each other," Pratley told Newshub.

The Secondary Principals Association (SPANZ) said the rule is "already working well" for teachers and schools who introduced the rule voluntarily at the start of Term 1.

Students are required to leave their phones in their bag at all time, in lockers or in locked pouches.

"Some schools are locking them at the front office for instance it's really just checking what the process is at their school and having those conversations now" said SPANZ vice-president Louise Ānaru.

But schools could have their work cut out to enforce it across the day.

"I would say people will definitely get around it, there's other ways of communicating like on their computer, rather than on their phone. Things like Whatsapp are available to download and those types of things," said Pratley.

The Secondary Principals Association said schools who started the year with a ban are reporting "less distraction and more interaction in the playground, with a lot of children out playing sport or heading to the library".

School boards have been required to consult with their community on how the ban will be enforced.

At Northland's Kaitaia College "we seize the item if it was used for a harmful reason then we would be handing it to police. If not, we store it safely for parents to pick up after school," Ānaru said.

There will be exceptions. Schools must allow students to use or access a phone when:

  • a phone is needed for health reasons (for example, to monitor insulin levels); or
  • a phone is needed to help a student with a disability or learning support need (for example, to assist with impaired communication); or
  • a teacher requires students to use phones for a specific educational task or purpose (for example, for a class assignment); or
  • the principal decides that they are needed for special circumstances (for example, the student is a teenage parent).  

Kiwi kids were recently ranked fifth in the world for being distracted by digital devices. The Government hopes the new rule will reverse that trend.

The advice to parents needing to urgently contact their children is to go through the school office or send a text that young people can pick up at the final bell.