A Canterbury principal says cellphones can have a positive uses in the classroom and it is better to educate students on good etiquette around them.

School students will be banned from having their cellphones at school from term 2 under a new Government policy.

However, Education Minister Erica Stanford said she expected most schools to do it themselves from term 1.

Rangiora High School principal Bruce Kearney said prohibition rarely worked.

“We all agree cellphones can have a negative impact on learning, but they can also be used positively in the classroom.”

Rangiora High School allows students to use their phones during break times, but phones were normally put away in school bags during class time.

Teachers sometimes allowed students to use their phones for classroom activities, such as Kahoot! quizzes.

Kearney said the focus should be on educating young people around good cellphone etiquette and developing social skills.

He said cellphones were common place in the world and young people would likely be using them every day when they entered the workforce.

While cellphones could be used for harm including online bullying, some students also used phones as “a safety blanket”.

“If we have to ban cellphones, we will ban them, but is that the right response?

“We will have Year 9s coming to school next year who have never lived in an environment where they have never had a cellphone.”

He said existing legislation gave schools the ability to develop policies appropriate to the school environment.

While there were concerns about the amount of screen time, Kaikōura High School board of trustees presiding member John Wyatt said technology “opened up the world” for students, particularly those who lived in rural areas.

“If these young people can read, then there is no end to the amount of research they can do online and subjects they can open up on an iPad or cellphone.”

He said it was better to allow schools to develop their own policies around cellphone usage, rather than an outright ban.

National campaigned on a nationwide ban on cellphones in the classroom as they can be a distraction to students.

The policy aims to lift achievements at schools.

By David Hill, Local Democracy Reporter

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.

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