Nine out of 10 parents can't be wrong

9th November 2007 at 00:00
And teachers and pupils are also happy with their secondary schools - but bullying remains a problem.Most parents are happy with their children's schools, a detailed survey of secondary education has revealed. Some 88 per cent say they would recommend them to friends. So would 72 per cent of teachers, data from Keele University's Centre for Successful Schools shows.

And 88 per cent of pupils say they are usually happy at school: girls and those in the early years at secondaries are particularly satisfied.

The survey also details areas of concern. Four out of 10 pupils say they have been bullied in the last year and one in 25 says this has happened daily. Thirty seven per cent say classmates try to disrupt lessons every day.

One Year 9 boy said: "It is a good school but bullying is a problem. The bully has nothing to worry about."

A Year 8 girl said: "Really naughty pupils should be dealt with straight away and not be given four or five chances because they disrupt the learning of others."

These are the main findings from responses to school surveys by more than 300,000 pupils, 50,000 parents and 5,000 teachers, compiled by the centre and revealed today by The TES. Keele last published findings in the 1990s.

The survey puts recent coverage of "failing schools" into context. Prime Minister Gordon Brown last week promised to close schools with fewer than 30 per cent of pupils achieving five good GCSEs including English and maths, pledging that the Government would "end failure".

Other parental surveys, including a study for Ofsted last year which found 77 per cent thought schools were good or better, reached similar conclusions to Keele.

John Bangs, head of education at the National Union of Teachers, said: "The message for schools here is that parents and the public support teachers and value the work that they do."

Helen Addams, head of the centre, said: "Although it is often perceived that schools are not performing well, when parents are asked about their own views, the vast majority give very positive responses."

Some 73 per cent of pupils agreed with the statement "this school is giving me a good education," of which 24 per cent agreed strongly. Only nine per cent disagreed.

Since it was set up in 1989 by Tim Brighouse, the former government adviser and chief education officer for Birmingham, the centre has been providing schools with detailed evaluations of how pupils, parents and teachers rate them.

Its latest batch of parental data is based on 220 schools surveyed in the past three years, or roughly one in 15 secondaries.

The figures on bullying are worrying. However, it is not possible to say whether they represent any worsening of the position of previous years, because the way the centre's question on bullying is asked has changed recently.

Sue Steel, national co-ordinator of the Anti-Bullying Alliance, said: "Children and young people tell us that bullying continues to be a serious problem in their lives".

The survey contradicts claims that pupil behaviour is sliding as the proportion of children saying their lessons are disturbed every day by classmates remains virtually unchanged since 1993.

But Mike Johnson, a former co-ordinator of the Keele centre, said it was worrying that pupils were complaining about the actions of their classmates. Anecdotally, he said more were doing so than in 1990 to 1993, though comparable statistics are not available.

Fewer pupils, 62 per cent, say they find their work interesting than in 1993, when the figure was 68 per cent.

Mr Bangs said the pressure on schools to raise test results, which was narrowing teaching, was probably to blame.

The survey also found fewer pupils claiming to work hard as they get older: more than 80 per cent say they do so in Year 7, against 69 per cent in Year 11. When asked if they worked hard, 79 per cent of girls said they did compared to 73 per cent of boys.

Jack Lewars, national student support officer for the English Secondary Students' Association, said GCSEs might be a demotivating factor, with students who find themselves doing poorly reacting by trying less hard.

Some 38 per cent of pupils said most of their teachers were respected by their classmates, although 30 per cent disagreed, nine per cent strongly.

Some schools have a very good record on tackling bullying, including Redmoor High School in Hinckley, Leicestershire, where Year 8 and 9 pupils act as mentors to their Year 7 schoolmates.

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