'Corrosive' mobile phones should be totally banned in schools
18 May 2019, 19:26 | Updated: 19 May 2019, 04:06
A new campaign is asking schools to pledge to go mobile phone free.
It launched with an open letter signed by 39 education leaders including headteachers and chief executives of multi-academy trusts representing 120 schools in total.
Describing the devices as "corrosive" the signatories agreed that "phones should not be used, seen or heard at any point, anywhere on the school site".
The letter has been backed by Education Secretary Damian Hinds.
Research has shown that mobile phones in schools can be detrimental to learning.
In a study of 91 schools undertaken by the London School of Economics and cited by campaigning think tank Onward, schools which restricted mobile phone use saw test scores improve by more than 6%, while pupils in schools with strict phone bans are 2% more likely to achieve five A*'s to C grades at GCSE.
For some of the signatories of the letter banning phones from school is a no-brainer.
Martyn Oliver runs the academy chain Outwood Grange which has 30 schools across Yorkshire and the North East. He says that banning phones is about more than distractions in class.
"It's about students being free from mental health stresses, social media, it's about images being taken of children and posted online, no parents or child would want an image of them getting changed in the changing room to be posted online.
"And when you're going round at break or lunch time you simply want to see children talking to each other and learning how to interact in society," he told Sky News.
The campaign is also calling on schools to adopt a new kitemark system which will allow parents to identify schools which have committed to ban phones from all spaces.
The system was developed by the group Parents and Teachers for Excellence.
Mark Lehain, director of the group, said: "For me, the ultimate success of this campaign would be that every parent knew before they chose a school for their child where that school stood on the issue of mobile phone use in that school, and that they felt they were equipped to challenge that school if they thought the school could do better in that regard.
"Ultimately schools are there for the benefit of children and we just think that everyone benefits from knowing where schools stand on this issue and ultimately the fewer schools have mobile phones in, the better our children will be."
But not everyone thinks mobile phones in schools are always a bad thing. They can be useful learning tools as well as valuable for safety.
Cara Berry is a parent whose eldest son goes to a school that actively welcomes phones and tablets into the classroom. The ethos is that children need to be taught to use them discerningly.
"I think the reality is there will always be distractions," said Ms Berry.
"When I was at school it was probably Rubik's cubes, for my kids it's mobile phones. We have to help them to manage that and simply taking things away from kids especially as they're starting to get older and more mature isn't necessarily the right solution."
A spokesperson from the Department of Education said: "The secretary of state has been clear that schools that ban phones have his support.
"We know that most schools already choose to ban or limit the use of mobile phones during the school day and this should be set out in their behaviour policies.
"Headteachers know best how to run their schools and we trust them to make those decisions - because that's autonomy in practice."
(c) Sky News 2019: 'Corrosive' mobile phones should be totally banned in schools