Cell phone ban at school

Term 2 started for schools yesterday, Monday 29 April, and there is a new rule this term – students cannot use a cell phone during classes or at breaks or lunchtime. This ban was introduced by the government after the National Party promised it during the election campaign last year. Sometimes the ban is called ‘away for the day’, because students have to put their phones away, for example, in their bags, during the school day.

The aim of this ban is to remove the distractions caused by students using their phones in class. The National Party said banning cell phone use at school would help to raise achievement levels and support students to concentrate on learning. Other countries such as Italy, China, and Australia have also banned phones either during class or completely at school. The ban in New Zealand includes breaks and lunchtime to encourage students to socialise with each other face-to-face, and to play games or read a book.

There are a few exceptions to the ban, though. Students can have access to their phones if they need one to monitor a health condition, or to help them with a disability or learning support need. Teachers may also ask students to use their phones for a specific task or assignment.

Many schools adopted the policy at the beginning of this school year, if they hadn’t already developed their own policy before that. Some principals and teachers report that it is successful, as students are less distracted in class and so can concentrate better on their study. While many students say they do not want to be without their phones, some also say they are getting used to it. On the other hand, some principals think banning cell phones completely is not practical as it is difficult to enforce at breaks and lunchtime, especially in a very large school. The principal of Wellington High School said he believes that breaks are the students’ own time, and teachers should not have to monitor what students are doing throughout breaks. However, the Minister of Education, Erica Stanford, says that the government expects all schools to follow this new regulation, and that the Education Review Office (ERO) will visit those schools which do not.

It is up to schools to decide what to do if a student is caught using their phone when they should not be. If parents need to get a message to their child during school hours, they now have to contact the school office.


ban – an official order that prevents something from being used or done

election campaign – a series of planned activities to encourage people to vote for a political party

distraction – something that stops you paying attention to what you are doing

distract – to take your attention away from something

socialise – to spend time with people in a friendly way