Belfast Telegraph

Monday 29 December 2014

Pupils warned on mobiles

Recording teachers on mobile phones is a form of bullying which should not be tolerated, the Education Minister has said.



While Caitriona Ruane would not say if she thought mobile phones should be banned from classrooms, she did say that a policy must be developed to ensure that teachers are not targeted by pupils in such a way.

Frank Bunting, Northern secretary of INTO, welcomed Ms Ruane's comments and said pupils must be taught not to abuse the teacher-pupil relationship.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Ms Ruane said it was important to note that, on occasions, teachers are bullied by their pupils. She said this is made possible by the growing number of children with a mobile phone.

An increase in incidents of 'happy slapping' - a fad in which an unsuspecting victim is attacked while an accomplice records the assault commonly with a camera phone - has been well documented by the press.

As part of Anti-Bullying Week, which begins today, pupils across Northern Ireland will be encouraged to consider the consequences of all forms of bullying - including cyber-bullying.

However, recently there have been reports of pupils recording teachers on mobile phones and sending the footage to classmates or loading it onto websites.

Ms Ruane said: "Recording teachers in a classroom must not be tolerated.

"As a parent I would have no difficulty if pupils were stopped from bringing mobile phones into schools, but I understand that some parents want their children to have mobile phones for safety or convenience reasons.

"I also believe that systems such as the internet are great educational tools and so we should encourage our children to make use of them, but this must be done in a responsible way.

"In that respect I think we need to look at ensuring schools have sensible policies in place regarding the use of mobile phones."

Reacting to the minister's comments, Mr Bunting said: "We would be horrified if there was to be a breach in the teacher-pupil relationship, but I would have to point out that a school in England took a case to court when a pupil recorded her teacher and the school lost the case, which is very worrying.

"We believe there must be a zero tolerance approach when it comes to pupils recording teachers, but I don't think the answer lies in banning mobile phones, because they can be used in lessons."

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