JAN MOIR: Why we must ban phones in school now…whatever the demanding little wretches might say 

Culture Secretary Matt Hancock says that all pupils’ mobile phones should be confiscated at the start of the school day because they have a ‘real impact’ on academic achievement.

When you stop to think about it, just for one second, what is truly remarkable is that this doesn’t happen already.

Meanwhile, the Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman has given her full backing to schools that ban phones completely.

She believes the arguments for having them in schools are ‘dubious at best’ and that they make life miserable for staff trying to teach and pupils trying to learn.

Culture Secretary Matt Hancock says that all pupils’ mobile phones should be confiscated at the start of the school day.  Stock picture

Indeed. How could phones in classrooms not be anything except the most corrosive, endless distraction for all concerned?

Children sit in class, their smartphones buzzing away, providing a delicious conduit to another world. One that is far more exciting than algebra or double French; one in which a torrent of heady guff pours in about Love Island, pop stars, soap gossip, random Kardashian info, sports, games and goals.

And, any spare second they get, the wretches are plugged in and all too ready to be distracted by taking selfies and texting their friends.

Question: how can taking phones to school possibly be good for pupils’ intellectual growth, their ability to concentrate, their proclivity to learn? Answer: it can’t.

However, the kind of precious parenting that means little Jilly and Johnny have to be contactable 24/7 means some mothers and fathers happily encourage school phones, while others are simply worn down by their demanding offspring.

Especially if they keep hearing: ‘Everyone else in class has one. God, I hate you.’

That is why these new directives from the Government and education bosses are so welcome. Schools are being actively and officially encouraged to ban phones — something that might come in handy when furious parents start rioting because their little darlings’ human rights have been violated.

To be honest, my relationship with my own iPhone is not entirely healthy. It lurks in my bag, a tempting distraction, a forever friend.

Sudoku, games of Words With Friends with my sister, a check to see who is baking what on Instagram, Googling useless things, messaging, micromanaging unimportant aspects of my life while walking under a bus, metaphorically speaking.

All this and photographs of dogs doing amusing things, too? I find it harder to concentrate or read a book than I once did — and surely reading all that tiny, illuminated print can’t be good for your eyesight?

Sometimes, it is a relief when I leave the damn thing behind. But listen, kids, I am a conscientious adult with responsibilities, not an easily distracted teenager like you.

Without mobile phones, children could learn to daydream, get bored, become resilient, think for themselves, learn to live inside their own minds. Yet, umbilically attached to the devices, there is no chance to develop an imagination — perhaps even a personality.

Social media is a non-stop torrent of menacing proof the human race is no longer evolving, but regressing back to a dimmer, duller age. And we haven’t even got to the porn yet.

I asked a YPWUT (Young Person Who Understands Technology) to show me how easy it is to access porn on a smartphone.

Foolishly, I had imagined there would be barriers — some process of signing up or handing over personal details for security. An age limit enforced, with some sort of proof required? How naïve.

Click, click, click — whoa! Before you could say: ‘Mummy, that lady isn’t wearing any pants,’ there we were, deep in the land of hardcore, with action clips in full Technicolor, no details spared.

And it is no secret that children are also exposed to bullying, aggression, sextortion and abuse, as vulnerable as hatchlings in an abandoned nest.

David Cameron’s plans to crack down on internet porn, blocking it unless homeowners specifically opted in, eventually came to nothing, crippled by EU rules. But he was on the right track.

How can parents safeguard their children? New apps such as SafeToNet provide tools that enable them to remotely monitor and manage their child’s usage.

That’s one positive. Encouraging a new culture where they don’t expect to have endless access to their phones, during school hours and beyond, is another.

According to Ofcom, 83 per cent of 12 to 15-year-olds have a smartphone and half of all children have a social media profile by the age of 12.

There is no doubt that all of this has an adverse impact on young people’s mental health.

So, with the Culture Secretary and Ofsted on board, schools just have to be brave, plug their ears to the howls of dismay and ban phones from classrooms. Now.

 Child neglect is not poverty 

 I was shocked to read that in my home town of Dundee, more than a quarter of school children are now living in poverty. Shocked because I simply don’t believe it.

The Child Poverty Action Group claims that in some areas of the city, things are so bad that the proportion rises to 36 per cent. Teachers are ‘having to give’ pupils fruit and cereal bars at break time because they haven’t even had a glass of water and are ‘too hungry to learn’.

What? I’m sorry, but if children are coming to school without breakfast, then that is child neglect, it is not child poverty.

Dundee has always been a gritty, working-class city, but have things really become so bad that the parents of thousands of children honestly cannot afford to feed them? A 2kg bag of Tesco’s Scottish porridge oats costs just over £2: that would make 40 bowls of porridge. Four pints of milk is £1.10. A loaf of bread, a jar of jam, a box of Weetabix, a banana — how hard can it be? Is it really beyond the pockets of parents?

Of course, there is genuine hardship. A lack of wage rises means that pay packets are failing to keep pace with growing inflation.

Dundee City Council has been urged to find ways to help hard-pressed families cope with the cost of sending children to school. What? It is free. The buses are free, the school dinners are free (until the age of 16 for those families claiming benefits) and the education is free.

I do sympathise with those who struggle. But in Dundee, and elsewhere in the UK, one has to wonder about the parameters of poverty used to judge these situations.

Not to mention the politicised culture that slyly encourages people to think of themselves as victims.

Now that’s a royal enclosure, Kirsty!    

Kirsty Gallagher at day two of Royal Ascot

Kirsty Gallagher at day two of Royal Ascot

How much cleavage is too much cleavage? Asking for a friend! Kirsty Gallacher took the plunge at Ascot this week, in a revealing outfit (above) that caused much comment.

The 42-year-old former Sky Sports presenter was ravishing in her polka dots, even if a croupier on the late shift at the Boom Boom Casino might have thought twice about that dress.

Of course, some say that Royal Ascot — Royal Tatscot! — has become coarse and déclassé now that it has been infiltrated by lower orders such as television stars and people who have been on — shudder — Strictly Come Dancing.

Yet the horse-racing has always been where the posh and the louche enjoy a day out together, albeit separated by velvet ropes, enclosures and rules.

I doubt that Kirsty would have been allowed in the Royal Enclosure, where a strict dress code of medieval female modesty prevails, including a rule that ladies’ dresses and tops should have straps of at least one inch wide.

Anyway, I thought she looked lovely. Absolutely amazing set of quills. On the hat.

Smitten or just plain stupid    

Kimberley Miners should consider herself very lucky. Indeed.

The former glamour model has told how she was ‘brainwashed’ by a British-born Islamic State recruiter on Facebook.

After being groomed by Naweed Hussain, who befriended her on the internet, Miss Miners, 29, shared dozens of horrific propaganda images and videos online.

His messages urging her to join him in Syria were uncovered by MI5 and she was arrested — she could be in Raqqa by now, living out her dream.

Kimberley Miners said she was 'brainwashed by a British born Isis recruiter on Facebook

Kimberley Miners said she was ‘brainwashed by a British born Isis recruiter on Facebook

Earlier this year, Kimberley was told she would not be charged, after admitting being ‘taken in’ by Hussain’s drive to groom a new generation of UKjihadi brides.

She said she only got involved because she had suffered a miscarriage and been dumped by a ‘millionaire’ boyfriend.

Well, Kimberley, lots of women suffer misfortune and heartbreak without having to rush off to join a death cult, become a jihadi bride and wage war on Western civilisation to cheer themselves up.

She also began using the name Aisha Lauren al-Britaniya, wearing a full veil and posting online images of Muslim women brandishing rifles.

Speaking about her actions for the first time, Miss Miners said she was ‘ashamed’ and that being arrested was a ‘slap in the face’. She might have added ‘the greatest thing that ever happened to me’.

For a woman to want to leave behind the freedoms of the West to live a brutal, medieval life — it is hard to understand. Is it part of a pandemic of stupidity or the power of the heart to surge on and find love and attention, no matter what?

Speaking of which, Shirley Valentine syndrome strikes again, with Diane De Zoysa. This 60-year-old from Edinburgh gave £100,000 to her 26-year-old husband in Sri Lanka. Then he was shot dead and the money has gone.

Looking at the pictures of this sad lady, one can’t help but wonder how much she was kidding herself. But self-delusion is no virtue.

Look at what happened to this pair of foolish dreamers. 

All Hail Harry Kane   

Harry Kane is England's star player

Harry Kane is England’s star player

All hail Harry Kane, the footballer of the moment.  Everyone is suddenly wild about Harry, who married his childhood sweetheart and — praise be — has no tattoos. 

An England captain who leads by action, not words. Before their first match in the once war-ravaged Russian city of Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad, he was asked if being in such a famous place meant anything.

 ‘All we can do is play football and the history is what it is,’ he said. It is what it is, indeed. Harry has a curious, timeless look. 

The kind of face you can picture under a helmet at the Battle of Hastings, wreathed in chainmail at the Crusades, or under a powdered wig. 

He looks at home in any century — and there are not many footballers you can say that about.

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