Minister for Education Richard Bruton has said he wll support a bill that could see children hand in their mobile phones at the start of the school day and collect them on the way home. 

The Education (Digital Devices in School) Bill 2018 is proposing a code of behaviour that would see standard rules for the use of digital devices apply to schools across the country.

The bill was introduced by Independent Senator Gerard Craughwell in the Seanad today.

It also aims to prohibit cyber bullying, harassment or intimidation and suggests schools have an internal discipline process to deal with this behaviour.

Mr Craughwell said he was totally convinced of the benefits of technology in the classroom, as a former ICT teacher. However, he said there was a wide discrepancy in how schools were currently dealing with the issue.

He said: "For example, some schools have an outright ban on phone usage. Other schools require that phones be turned off and handed up to the class teacher at the start of the school day.

"Other schools allow possession of phones, provided children keep them in their school bags and the phone is switched on."

Independent Senator Victor Boyhan, who also backed the bill, said the aim was to strike a balance between the benefits of the use for technology for educational purposes and the negative effects of unsupervised use of devices.

He said that he did not believe in banning devices outright.

Last month, Mr Bruton published a circular requiring all schools to consult parents, teachers and students on the use of smart phones and tablet devices in schools.

He said it was important to hear the voices of students, parents and schools on the issue. 

"Young people must learn to be discerning in their use of this very powerful tool. That is really the ultimate objective", he said. 

Minister Bruton said he was not objecting to the bill, but warned that it could be overly prescriptive. He pledged to work with the senators to get the possible outcome.

In the UK, Culture Secretary Matt Hancock recently called on head teachers to ban mobile phones in schools.

Schools in France are set to ban the use of mobile phones for children up to the age of 15 after legislation promised by President Emmanuel Macron during his election campaign was passed earlier this month.