School is back in session and most families have managed to survive through the annual trial and error process and can now settle back into a more comfortable if no less hectic routine. For most kids, the start of the year is a time to reconnect with friends and discover just how lucky they’ve been when it came to timetables being set. I was always fairly lucky with mine because my worst nightmare was to have maths last thing on a Friday afternoon but that never happened.

It’s lovely when there’s a few days to ease everyone in to new habits after a long summer break. Everyone has news to catch up on and those first classes of the year are a chance to show off a new pencil case when it’s still pristinely clean with all the pens and pencils still inside it, freshly inked up and sharpened. Anything that has been forgotten will soon be discovered and the situation remedied.

Here, that likely means a frantic text to a parent in the corridor as everyone around pulls out their calculator and some poor child is struck with the cold fear of not having one. That’ll soon be forgotten once the ever-dutiful parent rushes out to pick one up.

Of course, that isn’t all mobile phones are used for within the school setting. It’s not really surprising given that the vast majority of teenagers own a mobile phone and use it to its full potential. With all the social media platforms that are around, there’s this expectation and desire to constantly be connected and I do think there is a huge dependence on mobile phones these days. Whether it’s asking to go out of class for the bathroom or hiding a phone behind a textbook, there are always ways to use devices in class. Students will always try to push the limits with that even though their teachers aren’t as oblivious as they’d like to think and know exactly what they’re doing. After all, no-one randomly starts sniggering at a history book.

We constantly see the risks of mobile phones in the hands of youngsters who, no matter what they think, are still relatively naïve. There are unsavoury individuals out there who target the youngest users for their own sordid reasons and that behaviour can continue over weeks and months before a parent finds out because the child thinks it’s perfectly normal or are flattered by the attention. A report by Barnardo’s last year found that the majority of children involved in inappropriate online activity never tell their parents, with many parents only finding out by checking the phone when it’s left lying about.

There are children in primary school with their own phones and I really don’t think that’s a good idea. According to research, 28 per cent of 8-11-year olds have their own phone but what on earth do they need it for? At that age, they’re under constant supervision whether it be at home, in school or out with a trusted adult. The necessity for a phone doesn’t come until a child is spending time alone and without supervision from a responsible adult.

In France, students under the age of 15 now have to either leave their phones at home or have them switched off during school hours due to a law passed in July. There are exceptions in place for students with disabilities and for devices used educationally in the classroom, but for the majority, I’m sure starting school this year was harder than usual.

I think it’s a great idea. In school, I found that even if I wasn’t on my phone, if there was someone nearby who was constantly tapping at their screen or a dull vibration being heard every few minutes then I got really distracted by it. If I felt a buzz in my pocket, the knowledge that something or someone wanted my attention that I couldn’t give at that moment was like an unbearable itch that could not be scratched.

I worry about the future if our dependence on phones from an early age isn’t addressed. How is a child going to understand the importance of knowing basic maths if they can just open a calculator app instead? Why bother learning to spell when auto-correct has always got your back? Why learn anything when you can just watch a YouTube video or read a Wikipedia article about it instead? What’s the point in talking when you can just send a text or Snapchat?

Schools are supposed to be sanctuaries where the most vulnerable can feel safe and focus on their learning without anything getting in the way. Should anything out of the ordinary happen, there are still methods of communication open to the child. If they feel ill or get hurt, the school secretary is able to phone a parent to request they are picked up. If school needs to close early for whatever reason, most schools now have a mass messaging system that texts all parents in an instant, ensuring they’re informed of the full details rather than a half story from their child that is perhaps built on rumour and speculation. The school should have the interests of the child at their core and communication is a vital part of that.

With the rise of the likes of cyber bullying and revenge porn, it’s clear to see that there are problems with phones in the classroom. We’ve all been in embarrassing situations and prefer it if only our closest friends know about it. In adulthood, that is respected but in a school setting gossip is currency and it’s awful to know that you’re being talked about when there’s nothing to be done about it.

I hope that other countries follow the example that France has set and that we follow suit quickly.

Australia is already holding an inquiry as to whether they should put a blanket ban on phones in primary school classrooms rather than simply allowing schools to set their own guidelines as they currently do. Unfortunately, you cannot always expect students to focus on the lesson even at the best of times so removing any distraction that you can can only be a positive step.

I may still be looking for a way to use Pythagoras’ Theorem in the real world, but learning it for that section on the GCSE Maths paper was much more important than checking out celebrity relationships.

There’s a time and a place for all that but the classroom isn’t it.