Too many boys, looked-after pupils and children from deprived homes are being excluded from school, Sheila Riddell, professor of inclusion and diversity at Edinburgh University's Moray House School of Education, warned delegates to the Enquire conference.
Professor Riddell said that while schools, local authorities and the Scottish Executive had all expressed a commitment towards delivering inclusive education, "large numbers of children continue to be excluded from school or placed in special schools or units".
She continued: "Exclusion and special school unit placements are socially structured, with boys, looked-after children and children with free school meal entitlement all over-represented. "The Scottish Executive goal of reducing the proportion of school-leavers who are not in education, training or employment has not been attained.
"Similarly, little progress has been made in relation to the goal of improving the relative performance of the bottom 20 per cent of pupils compared with average pupil attainment."
Professor Riddell suggested that teachers had sympathy with the idea of including certain types of disabled pupils, but not pupils with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties or attention deficit disorder.
The educational inclusion of SEBD and ADHD pupils also had strong links with the school discipline debate. "At the present time there is evidence of some tension between teachers, who perceive a decline in school discipline, and the Scottish Executive, whose goal is to improve discipline and attainment, particularly for the most disadvantaged pupils," Professor Riddell said.
"Teachers' anxiety may in part be driven by the fear that local authorities are moving too quickly to a systems-change approach, and are therefore less likely to fund support for individual pupils.
"This concern is likely to be shared by some parents, who are concerned that the new additional support for learning legislation will deliver targeted support only to those pupils with the most significant impairments."