Mobile phone use should be banned in schools across England to improve behaviour, the Education Secretary Gillian Keegan announced today.

New guidance from the Department for Education will back head teachers in banning mobile phone use throughout the school day, including at break times, to tackle disruptive behaviour and online bullying while boosting attention during lessons.

It aims to support the wider work the government is doing to raise standards in schools by increasing students’ focus and reducing distractions.  

This ban supports the hard work of teachers and education staff – and continues to build on government’s reforms backed up by the highest level of funding for schools in history, in real terms, of nearly £60 billion by 2024-25.   

The move will bring England in line with other countries that have already implemented a ban, including France, Italy and Portugal.

It follows warnings from the United Nations on the risks of smartphones in schools and government data that found around a third (29%) of secondary school pupils reported mobile phones being used when they were not supposed to in most, or all, lessons.

If schools fail to implement the new guidance, the government will consider legislating in the future to make the guidance statutory. 

Tom Bennett, school behaviour advisor said:

“This is a fantastic move forward for ensuring that students are able to work, learn and grow in a place free from the distracting influence of mobile phones. Schools that have already banned them report that students are safer, happier and able to focus far more than they were before- and it’s popular with them too.

“And heads should now be reassured that their efforts to keep schools mobile-free will be backed by the DfE. This is a positive and progressive step forward.”

The guidance will set out limited exemptions where necessary – for example, where children require their phones for medical reasons.  

The ban builds on a £10 million investment in behaviour hubs which support up to 700 schools to improve behaviour alongside the appointment of a new behavioural taskforce led by DfE’s behaviour tsar Tom Bennett.