Gavin Williamson ‘not done his homework’ over call to ban phones in school

The Education secretary has urged schools to forbid the use of mobile phones and maintain quiet corridors.

The Education secretary has urged schools to forbid the use of mobile phones and maintain quiet corridors. - Credit: PA

Education secretary Gavin Williamson has been accused of “not doing his homework” after he urged schools to take a "firm" stance on poor behaviour and ban mobile phones.

Former East Anglian head Geoff Barton, who is now general secretary of the ASCL headteacher union, said schools had reported "a sense of calm and cooperation" from students and that "behaviour has never been better".

It comes after Mr Williamson launched his latest push against bad behaviour following a year in which he said Covid disruption had "inevitably" affected students' discipline. 

He said: "Behaviour and discipline are the cornerstone to so much of what defines this country's most successful schools.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson. - Credit: PA

"That is why I will always support schools taking a firm approach; for example, taking action to tackle the scourge of ever-present mobile phones - because I know the positive impact it will have on students' wellbeing and attainment."


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Mr Barton, formerly headteacher of King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmunds, said schools had not reported a rise in bad behaviour following the return of all pupils on March 8 until the Easter break.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL headteacher union.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL headteacher union. - Credit: Archant

"Quite contrary to what Mr Williamson has said, heads are reporting a sense of calm and cooperation from students that is deeply impressive,” he said. 

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“Young people are relaxed and pleased to be back at school and, most importantly, behaviour has never been better.”

He added that most headteachers already expect phones to be out of sight throughout the day and "won't appreciate government lectures on the issue".

Pupils in school corridor

Mr Williamson's said the disruption to school during the pandemic had "inevitably" affected students' discipline. - Credit: PA

Mr Williamson’s comments came as the Department for Education (DfE) named the initial 22 "lead schools" of its £10 million "behaviour hub" programme, which will start this summer term.

None of the initial schools are in this region but the DfE has said it will look to grow the number to cover other areas throughout the programme.

Children's Commissioner for England, Dame Rachel de Souza

Children's Commissioner for England, Dame Rachel de Souza. - Credit: Tom Barnes

Children's Commissioner for England, Dame Rachel de Souza, who was previously chief executive of the Inspiration Trust academy chain with 14 schools in Norfolk and Suffolk, welcomed the scheme “especially given the extra strains caused by the pandemic”.

She said: “Good behaviour is really important in enabling all children to learn and be happy at school.”

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