LONDON — Head teachers in England will be given wider powers to search pupils for alcohol, mobile phones and drugs, the government said on Wednesday, as it unveiled a raft of new measures aimed at restoring "discipline in the classroom."

Under current rules, school staff can only search pupils if they suspect they are hiding weapons.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said head teachers "are too often constrained by regulations which inhibit them from maintaining control of the classroom."

"Today we are removing red tape so that teachers can ensure discipline in the classroom and promote good behaviour," he added.

From September, teachers will be allowed to search pupils for alcohol, drugs and stolen property, as well as mobile phones, MP3 players, cameras, pornography, fireworks, cigarettes and so-called "legal highs".

In other measures set out by Gibbs, rules allowing teachers to use physical force to remove unruly students from the classroom will be simplified, and teachers facing accusations of malpractice will be granted anonymity.

"Ministers wish to put an end to rumours and malicious gossip about innocent teachers which can ruin careers and even lives," Gibbs said.

Behaviour in the classroom has long been a source of concern among teachers and parents.

According to the latest Ofsted figures, behaviour is rated "satisfactory" in just one in five secondary schools, while two in five teachers have witnessed physical aggression.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), welcomed the new search powers, saying the current rules are too strict.

"The current legislation makes an invidious distinction between alcohol, weapons and drugs and all other items. That does not reflect the reality of the situation teachers sometimes face," she said.

Meanwhile, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) hailed the right to anonymity.

"ATL welcomes the government's announcement that teachers will be given extra protection from false allegations by giving them anonymity until they are charged," said Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL.

But she said more clarity was needed when it comes to searching and restraining pupils.

"Teachers need certainty as to when they can use force and what force is reasonable,"

"We await further details of these proposals with interest, to see how workable they are in practice."