School phone ban will make classroom behaviour worse, claim teaching unions

Posted: 2nd October 2023

Teaching unions have claimed that the Education Secretary’s mobile phone ban will make classroom behaviour worse.

Gillian Keegan is to announce on Monday that she is banning smartphones from classrooms both during lessons and in breaks to ensure pupils can concentrate on their work, according to reports.

Sources close to the discussions told the Daily Mail that Ms Keegan will issue guidance to schools requiring them to put new measures in place to stop pupils from using their phones.

But union leaders have attacked the proposal, claiming it could create problems for teachers trying to enforce discipline.

Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said: “If the Government introduces blanket bans that are unenforceable, this will make the behaviour crisis worse, not better.”

He added: “This behaviour crisis has become embedded on this Government’s watch. The lack of joined-up solutions, multi-agency working and properly resourced behaviour support are just some of the systemic factors making a challenging situation worse.

“Teachers across the country would welcome more support around dealing with the problems caused by social media. But abusive use of mobile phones is not just confined to the classroom and we need to see better support for schools and families when problems arise.”


Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, claimed it was “a policy which isn’t needed for something that isn’t a problem, timed for the Conservative Party conference in a desperate attempt to grab a headline”.

In England, it is currently up to individual head teachers to create their own policies on mobile phones and decide whether they should be banned.

Already, many schools expect pupils to put their phones in their lockers when they arrive, while others allow students to keep the devices in their bags.

This comes as teachers await long-overdue Department of Education guidance on transgender issues also, with schools having been promised clarity by successive education secretaries since April last year.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of NAHT, the school leaders’ union, said: “Schools have been crying out for guidance they actually do need on complex issues such as how best to support transgender pupils, instead they are offered this.

“Unfortunately, a ban on mobile phones in school can cause more problems than it solves, leading to pupils becoming more secretive about their phone use, meaning problems are hidden from staff and therefore more difficult to spot and address.”

He added: “Most young people won’t just stop bringing their phones to school, and there could be parental opposition too, as there are practical reasons why pupils may need a mobile phone such as while travelling to and from school.”

A NASUWT survey on behaviour in schools suggested that teachers’ biggest concerns were verbal and physical abuse, as well as poor social skills in the aftermath of Covid lockdowns.

A ban on devices in schools was previously proposed in 2021 when Gavin Williamson was education secretary, but the idea was scrapped by his successor, Nadhim Zahawi, last year.

Source: School phone ban will make classroom behaviour worse, claim teaching unions (

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