Williamson wants teachers' tips for 'calm' classrooms

Education secretary also seeks views on controversial 'mobile phone-free school days'

Amy Gibbons

Behaviour in schools: Gavin Williamson wants teachers' tips on 'calm' classrooms and is asking them about mobile phone bans

The education secretary is asking teachers for their tips on how to "maintain calm classrooms" to help inform planned updates to government guidance on enforcing good behaviour in schools.

Gavin Williamson is also seeking views from both staff and parents on the use of "removal rooms" and creating "mobile phone-free school days", as part of a six-week consultation launched today.

The call for evidence, led by the Department for Education, asks for information on schools' behaviour strategies  and how they have changed in response to the pandemic.

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Comment: Mobile phones? Does Gavin Williamson have any real ideas at all?

In addition to their policies on managing "low-level disruptive behaviour", schools are invited to share "how and when they might decide to transfer a pupil to another school in their best interest", in a practice known as "managed moves".

Gavin Williamson consults on behaviour in schools

The education secretary has previously pushed for mobile phone bans, saying he "firmly" believes the devices "should not be used or seen during the school day".

Launching the DfE consultation today, he 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.

"In order to 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."

The move follows the launch of the DfE's new £10 million "behaviour hub" programme, part of its wider drive to improve standards, through which high-performing schools and academy trusts offer support to those struggling with poor discipline through peer mentoring and training.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, accused Mr Williamson of "playing to backbenchers on the subject of behaviour".

"The education secretary appears to be obsessed with the subject of mobile phones in schools," he said. 

"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."

He added: "We have no objection to looking at the issue of how to support good behaviour in general, but it is important to recognise that there are wider factors that also need to be addressed.

"There have been severe cutbacks to the support that is available to struggling families and children over the past 10 years because of the government's austerity policies.

"These programmes are an essential part of addressing the complex needs of many young people and supporting good behaviour. The government must do more for our most vulnerable families."

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Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @tweetsbyames

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