Ministers were accused this week of suppressing a report which reveals that the number of pupils permanently excluded from schools in England has topped more than 10,000 a year.
Only 600 copies of the report, which shows exclusions have trebled over the past three years, have been printed, and sources close to the report claim its circulation has been limited because it could prove embarrassing.
It reveals that more than half of all permanent exclusions were of pupils in their final two years of compulsory education. And it shows that secondary- school boys are four times more likely than girls to be permanently excluded.
The Department for Education and Employment denied the report was being suppressed.
A spokesman said it had been commissioned as a research document and lacked the status of a departmental report. "We are not embarrassed by it - these are factual findings." He added that 450 copies had been distributed to local education authorities and research bodies. Anyone else interested in obtaining a copy should contact the Department for Education and Employment's attendance and discipline unit.
But Dr Carl Parsons, the report's author and a reader in teacher education at Christ Church College, Canterbury, said: "With the limited number that have been printed the DFEE will have to use its judgment about who else it may be given to."
The report, which is based on a survey of more than 100 LEAs, reveals that the total number of permanent exclusions in 199394 was 10,624 compared with 2,910 in 199091. The trend is upward.
More than 80 per cent of exclusions were from secondary schools with one in 282 pupils on average being thrown out. More than a third of them were sent to pupil referral units set up to deal with excluded pupils.
In the primary sector the rate was one in 3,270 children. A quarter were taught in pupil referral units. Home tuition - frequently only five hours a week - was used for 40 per cent of excluded primary pupils and for 27 per cent of secondary pupils.
Rates of exclusion in London (0.25 per cent) were considerably higher than in metropolitan authorities or county councils (both 0.15 per cent).
National Survey of Local Education Authorities' Policies and Procedures for the Identification of, and Provision for, Children who are out of School by Reason of Exclusion or Otherwise. Available from the Department for Education and Employment.