Words: John Baron
More than 2,100 people have signed a petition calling on Gorse Academies Trust to relax strict rules surrounding pupils’ mobile phone usage.
The petition argues that the Trust’s current policy of confiscating students’ phones for 48 hours if they’re used anywhere on school grounds is a safeguarding issue.
The trust runs Farnley Academy alongside 10 other schools in Leeds, including Ryecroft Academy in Farnley.
Concerned parent Rosanna O’Brien organised the petition, which states:
“Parents of pupils within the GORSE Academies Trust want to be reassured their children have access to contact them or a responsible adult in case of an emergency as soon as their school day is over and we believe that it is in our child’s best interest that the mobile phone confiscation rule within the positive discipline policy is revised.”
The petition calls for a confiscated phones to be returned at the end of the school day, not a 48-hour confiscation. It also says the ban on using mobile phones on the public footpath leading up to the school gates of Farnley Academy needs to be removed. The petition concludes:
“The removal of a child’s mobile phone after the school day has ended is a safeguarding issue.”
The petition follows a serious sexual assault on a child on a woodland path running between Farnley Academy and Maple Croft in Farnley at around 3.30pm on Wednesday.
The child reported being approached by a man and was subjected to a serious sexual assault, before managing to break free and run off. Police have launched an investigation to find the attacker, who was was white, aged in his forties, tall with short brown hair.
Concerned parents spoke of their ‘devastation’ following the incident.
A spokesperson from Gorse Academies Trust said the trust had no plans to revise its mobile phone policy, saying it was rare for a phone to be confiscated from a pupil and that parents were made aware when this happens.
In a statement issued to West Leeds Dispatch, the Trust said:
“The incident which took place on Wednesday has shaken the school and the whole community. We are deeply shocked and upset by what took place and are giving every assistance to the police in their investigation.
“Student safety is of paramount importance to us and we currently have an increased staff presence at the beginning and end of the school day to ensure this. We will continue to liaise with the police in relation to this incident and act on any safety advice that they provide.
“Our behaviour policy provides clear instructions to students and their families on our expectations around the use of mobile phones. It is extremely rare for a phone to be confiscated but when it does happen during the school day, parents are made aware. We do not believe that a change in our rules surrounding mobile phones is required at this time but we keep all policies under constant review, including this one.”
Parents previously criticised Gorse Academies Trust’s mobile phone police in November, with Leeds Live reporting on their concerns over students’ safety.
Meanwhile, Old Farnley Community Centre is launching self defence lessons for boys and girls in the area. Read the full report here.