The first national survey of temporary exclusions shows that there are 137,000 a year - a loss of half a million schooldays a year.
Government efforts to introduce a consistent policy for schools exclusions have failed, says the Children's Society survey. Exclusions are one of the issues being examined by the social exclusion unit set up by the Prime Minister which is due to report shortly.
The survey's figures show that one secondary school handed out 469 temporary exclusions in a single year, two for every school day. A primary school in the same authority was responsible for 48, one in every school week.
Yet in one big city, there were only 250 exclusions overall. Most of the authorities were able to quote examples of both secondary and primary schools where no pupils had been temporarily excluded in the course of a year.
Permanent exclusions rose by 450 per cent between 1990 and 1995 to more than 12,000.
The survey says: "These wide variations raise enormous questions about school ethos, coherent policies, social context, recording practices and issues of fairness and equity..."
Questionnaires were sent to 104 local education authorities and 64 returned their forms. Forty per cent had no record of the number of days that temporary exclusions lasted but the survey suggests that the average may be around four days. Nearly two-thirds had no idea how many excluded children were in care.
Ian Sparks, the Children's Society's chief executive, said: "Exclusions carry heavy penalties for us all. The survey reveals a huge range of practice from the very best to the frankly disturbing. Local authorities need basic information about the children they are excluding."
The society says that excluded pupils should remain on the school roll even if they are being educated elsewhere so that schools feel a responsibility to re-integrate them. Schools should get extra money to cope with difficult pupils and there should be a compulsory case conference of parents, teachers and local authority officials before a child is excluded.Reuse content