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Ban mobile phones in schools, says former OFSTED chief

Embargoed to 0001 Thursday January 5 File photo dated 22/10/14 of a teenage girl using an iphone, as children are being left to "fend for themselves" against dangers such as bullying and grooming in the digital world, the Children's Commissioner for England has claimed. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday January 5, 2017. Anne Longfield said that youngsters who are spending increasing amounts of time online are not getting the level of support required and called on the Government to take action. See PA story EDUCATION Internet. Photo credit should read: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

By Alison Kershaw, Press Association Education Correspondent

A new law should be brought in banning mobile phones in schools, according to the former head of Ofsted.

Sir Michael Wilshaw said the devices are distracting and disrupt lessons, arguing that children can use a school phone in an emergency.

He suggested that the UK should follow France's lead and ban phones on school premises.

His comments come amid growing debate about the issue of phones in schools, with Culture Secretary Matt Hancock saying he admires head teachers who do not allow their use during the school day.

Asked about the issue at the Festival of Education at Wellington College, Berkshire, 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 phone."

Current Ofsted boss Amanda Spielman is also throwing her weight behind school leaders who ban the devices, telling the Festival that the place of smartphones in the classroom is "dubious at best".

Sir Michael, who stepped down as Ofsted chief inspector at the end of 2016, was also asked to explain comments he has made previously about some teachers "skiving off at 3pm".

He told the Festival that the comments were in reference to performance management, saying it was a shorthand method of saying schools should promote and reward people who work hard and go the extra mile.

Sir Michael suggested that the teaching profession can be "defensive" and would say that all teachers are hard-working and professional.

"They're not," he said.

"I've been teaching for 43 years, head teacher for over 30. Not all teachers are professional, not all teachers are committed, not all teachers do their best."

It is the job of a head teacher to identify those that do their best, and those that do not, he added.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: "Teachers work more unpaid overtime than any other profession, much of it unnecessary work driven by the fear of Ofsted inspections.

"Sir Michael Wilshaw significantly contributed to an atmosphere in schools where it is presumed that something is not done unless it is written down and documented.

"This culture of low trust is one of the major factors driving teachers from the profession, and this is lowering standards of education in England."

Pic by Chris Radburn/PA Wire

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