Ms VAGHELA (Western Metropolitan) (17:48:47): My adjournment matter is for the Deputy Premier and Minister for Education, the Honourable James Merlino, and my question relates to his portfolio of education. One of the top issues that parents, students and teachers raise is the prevalence and impact of bullying on students’ health and wellbeing. Mobile phones are regularly a part of this, whether it is the use of social media, video recording in the yard or the use of Snapchat and messaging apps to cyberbully. Thanks to the Andrews Labor government, from the start of 2020 students will no longer be allowed to use mobile phones in government primary and secondary schools during school hours. This means phones must not be used or seen in the schoolyard, classrooms or in between classes, except when directed by the teacher for learning purposes or if used for medical issues. Students will be required to leave their phones switched off between the first and last bell of the school day. Phones will be stored securely in student lockers. The Department of Education and Training will work with schools to identify alternative management approaches where necessary. The Andrews Labor government is investing $12.4 million to deliver the resources schools need to implement this ban. The funding will ensure schools have the support they need as they implement the policy. Schools will be able to apply for funding for secure storage resources that work best for their school. In secondary schools mobile phones are most likely to be kept in secure lockers or a secure box. Schools will be able to apply for funding to purchase or upgrade lockers or buy new padlocks for existing lockers. For schools that do not have lockers or sufficient space, the Department of Education and Training is exploring other suitable options, including lockable pouches. The action I seek is for the minister to provide an update to my office on what the schools in my electorate of Western Metropolitan Region need to do in order to apply for this funding so we are ready for the policy implementation early next year.
Mr MERLINO (Monbulk—Minister for Education) (26 November 2019): The ministerial policy on mobile phones in schools was released on 8 October 2019, along with a suite of resources to support schools to implement the new policy. Applications opened on the same day for schools to access $12.4 million in funding provided by the Andrews Labor Government for secure storage for phones. As each school has different needs and facilities, schools will be able to apply for funding for secure storage resources that work best for their school. This may include upgrading or replacing existing storage, purchasing new storage, or purchasing other items such as locks and roller doors to increase the security of existing or new storage. Information on the new policy, support materials and funding for secure storage can be found on a dedicated website set up by the Department of Education and Training for school leaders. A Helpdesk phone line and email has also been set up for school leaders who have further questions. This policy will remove a major distraction from our classrooms, so that teachers can teach, and students can learn in a more focused, positive and supported environment.