Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said phones were ‘distracting’ for pupils (Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

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Mobile phones could be banned during the school day under plans being looked at by ministers.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said phones were “not just distracting but they can have a damaging effect on a pupil’s mental health and wellbeing”.

Parents and teachers are being asked to feed into a six-week consultation from today on improving classroom behaviour, which includes a potential ban on pupils using their phones at school.

Mr Williamson said: “No parent wants to send their child to a school where poor behaviour is rife. Every school should be a safe place that allows young people to thrive and teachers to excel.

“Mobile phones are not just distracting, but when misused or overused, they can have a damaging effect on a pupil’s mental health and wellbeing. I want to put an end to this, making the school day mobile-free.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said he'd like to see phones banned in schools
(Image: PA)

“In order for us to help pupils overcome the challenges from the pandemic and level up opportunity for all young people, we need to ensure they can benefit from calm classrooms which support them to thrive.”

But Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, accused Mr Williamson of “playing to backbenchers” rather than focusing on what schools really need.

He said: “The Education Secretary appears to be obsessed with the subject of mobile phones in schools.

“In reality, every school will already have a robust policy on the use of mobile phones; it isn’t some sort of digital free-for-all.

“Approaches will vary between settings and contexts, but this is an operational decision for schools, not something that can be micromanaged from Westminster.

“Frankly, school and college leaders would prefer the Education Secretary to be delivering an ambitious post-pandemic recovery plan and setting out how he intends to minimise educational disruption next term, rather than playing to backbenchers on the subject of behaviour.”

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Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: "Talking about mobile phones is a distraction.

"Schools generally have very clear policies and will not see the need for another consultation."

He added: "Students in families on lower incomes have been hardest hit – and lost the most learning time – so what matters this year is empathy, high expectation and time for individual teaching alongside emotional support, not tougher sanctions or zero-tolerance policies on behaviour.

The Department for Education (DfE) has already announced plans for £10 million “behaviour hubs”, where heads with strong records on behaviour will mentor struggling schools.