Boys and youngsters with special educational needs are still much more likely to be expelled from school than their classmates, the Children's Commissioner said today.
In a new report on school exclusions Dr Maggie Atkinson warned that there is an "unacceptably high" link between a pupil's background and their chances of being permanently excluded from school.
It found that in 2010/11 children with special educational needs (SEN) were nine times more likely to be excluded than their classmates.
And boys were three times more likely to be expelled than girls.
The report also found that children from some ethnic backgrounds were more likely to be excluded than others.
Gypsy, Roma and Irish Traveller children were four times more likely to be expelled, and Black Caribbean pupils were three times more likely, the report found.
It warns that for children who fall into more than one category, the likelihood that they will be expelled increases.
In her foreword to the report, Dr Atkinson suggests that a Black Caribbean boy, who has moderate SEN and is eligible for free school meals is 168 times more likely to be expelled than a white female pupil with no SEN and from a more affluent family.
She says that there are complicated reasons for this that are not limited to school.
The male pupil who is more likely to be permanently excluded is more likely to have a difficult life in general, Dr Atkinson suggests.
"He is more likely to be unemployed later in life, live in poor accommodation and be in trouble with the police.
"This is an issue for society as a whole, and school exclusions represent one signifier of a wider problem.
Schools do not act in isolation, and cannot be expected unilaterally to level the playing field in terms of life outcomes for children in disadvantaged groups."
Dr Atkinson adds that some schools do a "fantastic" job at reducing exclusions and narrowing the achievement gap.
"We have found that the most important single thing a school can do is to realise that some children need more support than others in school, and to meet this need.
"The best schools do this instinctively because they realise that this is core to their job, rather than an 'optional extra'," she said.
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders said: "Heads do not want to have to permanently exclude any child, but at the end of the day they have a responsibility to all pupils in their care and they cannot allow the education or safety of the majority to be jeopardised by one or two pupils.
"Exclusion is a last resort when all other sanctions have failed. It is a sad fact that in some cases, exclusion is in the best interest of the child as the specialist support they so badly need is only made available when they are no longer in school.
"It is not a failure of schools to understand pupils' cultural needs that leads to exclusion. Of course it is concerning that some groups of pupils are excluded more than others but this reflects deep seated issues in our society which schools alone cannot solve alone.
"A coordinated, cross-government commitment is required to tackle these enormous challenges."Suggest a correction