SCHOOLS have challenged advice from a top politician and defended their choice not to ban mobile phones.

Last week schools minister Nick Gibb told The Times that he thinks schools should completely ban smartphones, particularly inside the classroom, to encourage children to limit screen time.

Though most Oxfordshire schools already employ a ban, several buck the trend and allow use of phones during breaks and even in the classroom to aid education.

Among them are Rye St Antony in Headington, The Cooper School in Bicester and Fitzharrys School in Abingdon, which have refrained from bringing in a blanket ban and allow phones under certain circumstances.

Sarah Ryan, Rye’s headteacher, said: “Educating pupils to understand risk and promoting safety are key elements of education.

"We find increasingly that pupils are engaging proactively in this debate and want to learn more responsible use of technology and to discuss their own concerns about the impact of mobile phones on their relationships, their school work and their health."

ALSO READ: E-safety day in Headington exposes pupils to perils of internet

This week pupils at the all-through independent school took part in Safer Internet Day, learning about the effects of phone use.

Mrs Ryan said: "Understanding [these effects] is key to their recognising how to manage and take control of the technology using it rather than allowing it to control us.

"It is so important to help them learn to manage a healthy balance - whilst we don’t allow use of phones in classrooms and corridors and other public spaces, we do allow pupils to have them with them in school and work with them to help them learn to use them well.

"Phones are a powerful reality in their lives with positive and important uses. We must equip them for sensible use throughout their lives."

Fitzharrys’ policy also defends some phone use and states that it can promote 'maturity' in allowing students to make sensible decisions about usage.

It adds: “Mobile phones often provide a valuable support to learning...A teacher may give permission to access the internet for research purposes, to take photographs of work in progress, capture ideas on the whiteboard or record homework.

“Some schools ban mobile phones, but this does not mean that students do not still bring them into school and use them over the course of the day - Fitzharrys’ regulated approach encourages responsible mobile phone use and avoids distraction during learning time.”

ALSO READ: Warning to parents over hidden risks of Fortnite and messenger apps

Many Oxfordshire schools allow pupils to bring their phones into school, on the condition that they are kept switched off and out of sight and are not used on the premises during the school day, in which case they will be temporarily confiscated.

The Cherwell School in Summertown used to allow students to use their phones during break and lunch, but amended this in 2017.

Explaining the change, the new policy stated: “It is [now] virtually impossible to restrict what students are able to access via the internet in school...students could be exposed to age inappropriate, illegal or offensive material.

“There is also an increased possibility that bullying may take place online within the school day.”

The policy also cites student wellbeing as a reason for the stricter rules, adding: “Some students are simply spending too much time on their phones...Research has shown that young people overly attached to their mobile phones do up to 20 per cent worse academically.”

Last week Oxford University researchers found that time spent staring at computer screens, video games, and smartphones had no significant effect on a child’s wellbeing.