A North East MP has stated the government is "scraping the bottom of the policy barrel" following news that they are to fully ban mobile phones in schools. 

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan announced the news yesterday (February 19), following a pledge to move forward with the ban at October's Tory party conference.

New guidance now instructs headteachers on how to ban the use of phones not only during lessons but during break and lunch periods as well.

It also suggests that staff could search pupils and their bags for mobile phones if necessary, noting that “headteachers can and should identify mobile phones and similar devices as something that may be searched for in their school behaviour policy”.

In a statement, Ms Keegan said: “Schools are places for children to learn and mobile phones are, at a minimum, an unwanted distraction in the classroom.

“We are giving our hard-working teachers the tools to take action to help improve behaviour and to allow them to do what they do best – teach.”

Following the news, Labour's Shadow Education Secretary and also MP for Houghton & Sunderland South, Bridget Phillipson has hit out at the move, claiming the Conservative government is "dying".

She said: "This is a rehashed announcement that ignores the fact that most schools have already banned phones from classrooms – the Conservative Government’s own guidance admits that further government intervention isn’t even necessary.

"This is just more evidence of a dying Conservative government yet again scraping the bottom of the policy barrel and that is silent on the challenges facing our schools from persistent absence, crumbling concrete buildings and rampant mental ill health among young people.

The Northern Echo: Bridget Phillipson.Bridget Phillipson.

"Labour will drive high and rising standards in our state schools with 6,500 more teachers, mental health counselling in every secondary school, early speech and language interventions and careers advice to break down barriers to opportunity at every stage."

However, Conservative MP for Sedgefield Paul Howell as praised the news, hailing it as a "step in the right direction".

He said:  "I commend the Government for taking a stand for our children, prioritising their education and well-being over the allure of constant digital connection.

"I urge all stakeholders to support this positive change and work together to build a brighter future for our next generation.

"Critics may argue this infringes on personal freedoms, but I disagree. Schools have a responsibility to create a conducive learning environment free from disruptions.

"This ban aligns with existing school rules against disruptive behaviour and ensures an equal playing field for all students."

However, the Association of School and College Leaders said it did not expect the new guidance to make any discernible impact.

General Secretary Geoff Barton said that the “compulsive use” of devices was not happening in schools but “while children are out of school”.

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He said: “Most schools already forbid the use of mobile phones during the school day or allow their use only in limited and stipulated circumstances.

“We have lost count of the number of times that ministers have now announced a crackdown on mobile phones in schools. It is a non-policy for a non-problem.

“The Government would be far better off putting its energies into bringing to heel the online platforms via which children can access disturbing and extreme content.”