Not content with merely barring them from being used in the classroom, Matt Hancock has suggested that they be confiscated from children who carry them at the start of each school day.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, he warned that mobiles could have a “real impact” on students’ achievements and leave them exposed to increased amounts of bullying – and questioned why youngsters needed to bring their phones to school in the first place.
“There are a number of schools across the country that simply don’t allow them,” he said.
“While it is up to individual schools to decide rather than government, I admire head teachers who do not allow mobiles to be used during the school day. I encourage more schools to follow their lead.”
Mr Hancock said that “setting boundaries” in relation to how much children were exposed to technology – and notably social media – was vital in protecting them from harm and encouraging them to use the internet safely.
“Studies have shown that mobile phones can have a real impact on working memory and fluid intelligence, even if the phone is on a table or in a bag,” he added.
His column was supported by a letter from seven fellow Tory MPs, also published in the newspaper.
Citing a 2015 study by the London School of Economics, they write: “Where schools banned smartphones from the premises, or required them to be handed in at the start of the day, pupils’ chances of getting five good GCSEs increased by an average of 2%.
“The improvement was even more marked for lower-achieving pupils. Results among pupils in the bottom quarter of achievement improved twice as much as the average.”
Harborough MP Neil O’Brien and Chichester MP Gillian Keegan are among those behind the letter, which urges the Department for Education to give guidance to schools about the evidence on attainment.
But there is no suggestion that a ban on phones in schools could ever be a matter of law, unlike in France, where politicians have approved such a bill after it was proposed by President Emmanuel Macron’s party.
Education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer described it as “a law for the 21st century, a law for addressing the digital revolution”, and said it would “protect children and teenagers”.
The rules will be in force from September for the start of the new academic year.