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Exclusive - Nine out of 10 parents say schools are safe

Nine out of 10 parents believe their child is safe at school, according to a survey by the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations (NCPTA).

Despite reports of the Home Secretary calling for airport-style metal detectors at school gates to combat knife attacks, pupils' physical security in class is not high on their families' list of fears.

Just three of the 501 parents questioned in a telephone poll for the NCPTA said they were worried about knife or gun crime.

And teachers have told The TES they do not want schools to become fortresses. They say ministers have overreacted and they would prefer a less confrontational approach.

Even Sally Coates, head of Sacred Heart RC School in Southwark, south London, where a 13-year-old girl was stabbed last week and a 14-year-old boy arrested, said that security arches were not the answer.

"I am concerned about media perpetuating this myth of gang violence in south London. It's almost creating a self-fulfilling prophecy," she said, adding that the incident would not have been prevented by security arches at the gates. The girl, who needed stitches but was not kept in hospital, was wounded with a craft knife from a design class, so it was already inside the school.

Jo Shuter, the head of two London secondaries, Quintin Kynaston and Pimlico, said children would find alternative ways of getting knives into schools if security arches were installed at the gates.

"We need to create an ethos where the kids don't want knives in school, where school is a haven from what happens on the estates, and where kids come to adults and trust them to deal with it," she said.

Yesterday, the Association of Chief Police Officers detailed plans to "nip youth offending in the bud" through Safer School Partnerships. Police will work with schools and other community groups to target prolific young offenders who are involved with gangs, guns and knives.

Stabbing is the most common method of killing in England and Wales, where 90 children were murdered in 2005-06. In London last year, 27 children were murdered, but incidents at school are rare. A Home Office spokesman said there was no evidence of an increase of violent crimes among young people.

The NCPTA survey found the main concern of parents was pupils' bad behaviour in lessons disrupting their child's learning. Nearly half said their child had been bullied at school, but 62 per cent felt schools were doing enough to deter bullying. Overall, 73 per cent were satisfied with their child's education and nine out of 10 parents got their child in to their preferred school.

Full story, pages 16-17.

Teachers' trials, Magazine, page 14.

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