Mobile phones are a major distraction for children, according to the UK government’s education secretary, who believes that it is “now time to put screens away”.

Gavin Williamson said that smartphones and other forms of tech have been “invaluable” during the COVID-19 pandemic as they have kept children connected, able to learn and get the support they need.

However, he added that away from the classroom and core education, mobile phones are often a “breeding ground” for bad behaviour and poor health, due to a lack of exercise.

Williamson also said that the mental health of young people is being adversely affected by cyberbullying on social media.

He concluded by stating that mobile phones should not be “used or seen” at school and that the government will liaise with head teachers to implement no usage policies later this year.

Many primary and secondary schools already limit usage during breaktimes and at lunch, according to the education intelligence app Teacher Tapp.

However, co-founder of Teacher Tapp Laura McInerney said that there are still issues regarding the application of rules and sanctions, as there is often uncertainty about whose responsibility it is to take away devices.

Parents are open to the idea of bans though as a Uswitch survey from last year found that 50% would support such action.

Bright Futures Education’s Mica-May Smith believes that a complete ban may not be the best course of action, and instead favours a “collaborative approach with rules in place” that nurtures trust.

Williamson also called for more structure and discipline after a year of remote learning.