Pupils at French primary schools and middle schools could be banned from using mobile phones in school under draft legislation approved Thursday by the French Senate.
The measure, proposed by the government, is just one clause of an enormous piece of environmental legislation that must still be debated by the National Assembly before it has any chance of becoming law.
The restriction on phones was the subject of vigorous debate on Wednesday, with one senator pushing for the ban to be limited to the classroom for older pupils, so that they could make calls in the corridors during breaks.
Many schools already ban the use of phones in their code of conduct.
Nevertheless, school teachers report that pupils regularly exchange text messages in the classroom, with some occasionally even making or answering calls there, making it difficult to maintain classroom discipline.
The proposed legislative ban, though, is for health rather than educational reasons, with the government wanting to apply the "principle of precaution" in the absence of guarantees that the electromagnetic radiation emitted by mobile phones is perfectly safe for young children.
The government is in the middle of a long consultation of the effects on health of emissions from mobile phones and transmitter masts. The French Agency for Environmental and Occupational Health Safety is expected shortly to publish the latest in a series of regular reports for the government on the health and safety of mobile phones.