The government is considering banning mobile phones in schools as part of a plan to promote “calm classrooms”.
Education secretary Gavin Williamson said he wants to make the school day phone-free, calling the devices “distracting” and “damaging”.
A smartphone ban is just one of the measures being considered as part of a six-week consultation launched on Tuesday on pupil behaviour and discipline in schools.
The views of teachers, parents and other staff will be sought as part of the review.
Williamson has said previously he will support headteachers who ban mobile phones, but unions have accused him of grandstanding, pointing out that many schools already have policies in place to deal with the devices.
Under the Department for Education’s £10m “behaviour hub” programme, headteachers and behaviour specialists from 22 schools and two academy chains with strong reputations for behaviour are mentoring and supporting schools struggling with poor discipline.
The chosen schools will advise on a range of issues, from low-level disruption in classrooms to forbidding the use of mobile phones and maintaining quiet corridors.
The six-week call for evidence comes ahead of planned updates to government guidance later this year on behaviour, discipline, suspensions and permanent exclusions.
“No parent wants to send their child to a school where poor behaviour is rife,” said Williamson.
“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.
“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 the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) accused Williamson of “playing to backbenchers” with his plans.
General secretary Geoff Barton 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.”
Sarah Hannafin, senior policy advisor for school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Mobile phone bans work for some schools but there isn’t one policy that will work for all schools.
“Outright banning mobile phones can cause more problems than it solves, driving phone use ‘underground’ and making problems less visible and obvious for schools to tackle.”
Watch: Call to ban mobile phones at meals and bedtime