Schools should ban mobile phones, according to Nick Gibb, who today also said the Department for Education would introduce lessons for pupils on how to limit their screen time.
The schools minister said he had concerns about the impact that excessive phone use was having on children.
"Schools obviously are free to set their own behaviour policies but my own view is that schools should ban mobile telephones and smartphones inside school, and particularly inside classrooms," Mr Gibb told The Times.
"I believe very strongly that children should be limiting their own use
"Every hour spent online and on a smartphone is an hour less talking to
family, and it's an hour less exercise and it's an hour less sleep.
"And of course it is a lack of sleep that research is showing can have a
damaging effect on a child's mental health."
The lessons on curbing mobile phone use will reportedly come as part of an overhaul of PSHE.
The NAHT headteachers' union warned banning phones in schools outright could make tackling the associated problems harder.
"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," said the association's senior policy
adviser, Sarah Hannafin.
"Ultimately, schools work to prepare young people for the outside world,
giving them the awareness and strategies to responsibly monitor their
own screen use and the ability to identify and deal with any negative
impacts or problematic content they encounter."
The UK would be following in the footsteps of European counterparts if
schools were to introduce a ban on phones, with French pupils being told
to leave their smartphones at home when they returned from their summer
holidays last year.
Mr Gibb is the latest figure in education to support such a move, with
former Ofsted head Sir Michael Wilshaw saying devices were disrupting
Teachers have also complained about pupils being distracted or using the
phones to take upskirt images of staff in the classroom.
But last year education secretary Damian Hinds said he would not introduce a national ban on mobile phones in schools.
He said: “I don’t want kids in schools to be using their mobile phones because having a zone in their lives where they are free from technology is a good thing.
"But when people ask me if I’m going to implement the French model I say no – and that is autonomy in practice.”
'Far too distracting'
Speaking at the Festival of Education at Wellington College last summer,
Sir Michael said that "any sensible head would ban mobile phones".
"It's interesting that President Macron is now bringing in legislation
in France to ban mobile phones in state schools in France. We should do
the same here.
"It's far too distracting for children having mobile phones. Texting,
sexting, all this takes place. Mobile phones go off in classrooms,
disrupting lessons. Ban them.
"If children want to use a phone in an emergency they can use the school
A subsequent study conducted by researchers at Rutgers University in the
US concluded that students scored the equivalent of half a
grade less in end-of-term tests if they were allowed to use their
devices for non-academic reasons in their classes.
The Daily Mail today reported that children will be told to break off at least
every two hours from their screens and avoid social media before bedtime, according to guidance being drawn up by chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies.
The Department of Health and Social Care said Dame Sally's commentary
and advice for parents was "still being finalised".