BAN mobiles from schools: New Ofsted chief gets tough over classroom discipline and schools could be penalised for failing to tackle disruption
Sir Michael Wilshaw says handsets can be used to access porn in lessons
Teachers could be marked down by inspectors if they don’t enforce ban
Tough new inspection regime will also cover back-chatting and calling out
By Laura Clark, Education Correspondent
PUBLISHED: 23:34, 9 May 2012 | UPDATED: 08:29, 10 May 2012
Pupils face a ban on mobile phones in school as part of a new Ofsted crackdown on classroom discipline.
Schools will be penalised for failing to tackle persistent low-level disruption in lessons under a tough new inspection regime being introduced next term.
This could force teachers to forbid mobile phone use by pupils – including texting, taking calls and surfing the web – to avoid being marked down by inspectors.
It will also cover other forms of disruption, including back-chatting and calling out, which damage education for well-behaved classmates.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of schools, said that apart from the distracting effect of a mobile going off in a lesson, handsets can be used for cyber-bullying and accessing online pornography at school.
In an interview with the Mail, Sir Michael told how, as a headmaster, he banned his pupils from bringing phones to school.
Recalling his experience as head of Mossbourne Academy in Hackney, east London, he said: ‘It certainly cut out all that nonsense that you have in schools of these things being brought in and then a mobile phone going off in a lesson.
‘The outrageous behaviour that you occasionally see in all schools is serious, but I think the bigger issue is that low-level disruption which takes place which stops children learning effectively. Teachers and head teachers have got to stamp that out.’
Sir Michael added that bullying via phones and the internet could be ‘disruptive and pernicious’ and he treated the menace as seriously as a fight in the playground.
He will use a keynote speech today to pledge to push ahead with an overhaul of the school inspection regime despite a revolt by head teachers and claims of ‘bully boy tactics’.
Under his reforms, 6,000 schools currently deemed ‘satisfactory’ will be rebadged in the next academic year as ‘requiring improvement’.
‘I know this is a tough message but I think in a few years’ time it will be seen as a right one,’ he said.
‘I’m not a bully and never have been. We are raising the game. We are saying that all children deserve a good education and nothing less.’
Ofsted’s sharper focus on standards of behaviour is expected to lead to schools taking a tougher line on mobiles.
New laws brought in last month give teachers powers to search pupils for handsets if they are banned under school rules.
Staff may also search pupils for phones if they suspect they are being used to view pornography.
Few schools currently impose an outright ban on bringing handsets to school. Many allow them as long as they are kept switched off and stowed away.
But teachers warn that once mobiles are in school, they face a battle to make sure they are switched off all day.
Teachers who contributed to an online forum said: ‘Officially, we do not allow phones and will confiscate if seen. In reality, kids wander round using them as they like.’
Another warned: ‘I’ve had the situation where I’ve demanded the phone from, say, a Year 10 boy (I’m female) and they just shove the phone inside their boxers and say “You want it, you get it!”’
Sir Michael went on to reveal that heads will be expected to deal more effectively with teachers who cannot control their classes.
They will be marked down if they fail to manage the performance of struggling teachers, for example by waving through unjustified pay rises.
‘If the culture of the school is good and somebody is consistently under-performing because they are not teaching effectively, leading to that low-level disruption, that’s got to be picked up,’ said Sir Michael.
‘Where head teachers find that teachers are consistently underperforming, where there is that low-level disruption in every lesson, no matter what the professional development taking place in the school, then action needs to be taken.’
Sir Michael plans to extend Ofsted’s reach to the new chains springing up to run academies, which operate outside local authority influence but are state-funded.
At a conference today at Brighton College, he will say he has not been deterred from pressing ahead with toughening up the system, and that a consultation on the proposals attracted wide support, including from parents.
Richard Cairns, headmaster of Brighton College, will tell the conference that heads who fail to sack incompetent teachers should have their pay docked.
‘No head teacher should ever tolerate bad teaching. Yet up and down the land, that is precisely what is going on.
‘Too many head teachers are prepared to take their relatively generous salaries yet duck the issue of the bad teacher in the staff room.’
A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘Parents should take responsibility for whether or not their children have phones in the first place. It is up to individual head teachers to decide if and when mobile phones should be used by pupils in school.’