Class wreckers and bullies top parental worries
The findings, exclusive to The TES, show that 73 per cent of parents said they were satisfied with their child's education, 76 per cent believed bad behaviour by some pupils was having a detrimental effect. And half claimed that their child had suffered from bullying.
But fear of violence inside the school gate was voiced by only three out of the 501 parents questioned in a telephone interview for the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations (NCPTA).
Laura Warren, a spokeswoman for the association, said: "Any instance of serious crime always grabs the headlines, and quite rightly. Children should be safe at school. But we should not forget a sense of reality about how often serious crime happens. Fortunately, it is still unusual in school."
Sir Alan Steer, head of Seven Kings High School in Ilford, Essex, who examined pupil behaviour for the Government in 2005, said the inquiry found that most schools are calm, stable places, often in contrast to their surroundings.
"I think parents are more concerned about psychological bullying (than physical violence). But that does not mean we should minimise serious violence," he added.
Vicky Tuck, president of the Girls' Schools Association and head of Cheltenham Ladies' College, has urged schools to tackle the problem of girls' bitchy behaviour.
Last month, the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study report found a split between staff and pupils on their perception of school safety - 90 per cent of heads said their school was very safe compared with 37 per cent of pupils.
The latest poll by the NCPTA also asked parents about the action that should be taken against those who cannot control their children and got a surprisingly tolerant response. Support rather than punishment was favoured: only 27 per cent agreed that the parents of children who disrupted their child's lesson should be fined or jailed. This was in stark contrast to the 90 per cent who said these parents should be offered support, such as a course to improve their parenting skills.
This implied ministers are on the right lines with the package of measures to support families and help parents take a more active role in their children's education, in a partnership between families and the state set out in last month's Children's Plan.
Some 44 per cent of those surveyed by the NCPTA said their child had been bullied at school. Of these, 54 per cent said they had received all the support they needed from school.
There were mixed findings on testing and league tables and on how parents choose schools.
Some 39 per cent of parents said they valued highly their child taking key stage tests; a further 32 per cent said they were of medium value. Only 20 per cent did not value the tests. Parents' evenings were valued by 82 per cent.
Most respondents found tables of little value - just 23 per cent rated them highly - and only one in 10 said they had failed to get their children into the school of their choice.
And families were split on health concerns: while 39 per cent said they were worried about their child's health and rising levels of childhood obesity, 61 per cent said that they were not.
WHAT PARENTS REALLY THINK OF SCHOOLS
92% of parents believe their child is safe at school.
73% are satisfied with their child's education.
76% believe other children's behaviour disrupts their child.
27% think the parents of misbehaving children should be fined or imprisoned.
90% believe that parents who struggle to control their children should receive support.
44% say their child has been bullied by fellow pupils, however 62% feel the school is doing enough to deter bullying.
82% say they find parents' evenings useful.
39% say they are worried about their child's health and rising levels of childhood obesity; 61 per cent are not.
71% find end of key stage tests valuable.
58% find league tables valuable.