A schoolboy threw a plastic bottle at France's President Nicolas Sarkozy during a visit to discuss violence in French schools on Tuesday, but missed his target.

A bodyguard came between Sarkozy and the water bottle which was thrown as pupils crowded around the president, some of them seeking to shake his hand, at the Charles Fauqueux high school in Beauvais, north of Paris.

Sarkozy, whose popularity rating in France has slipped to record lows in recent months, expressed concern about absenteeism and violent incidents in schools, during talks with teachers and local officials.

After the bottle-throwing incident he visited an art class where pupils showed him pictures they had drawn on the subject "express your fears".