Schools should be set targets for admitting young offenders and other pupils who have been excluded, government spending watchdogs have recommended.
The Audit Commission and National Audit Office made the call this week after publishing reports which said schools needed to take "full responsibility" for deterring young people from crime.
They said too few excluded pupils were readmitted to mainstream education, partly because of schools' fears that it would damage their league table standing.
Figures provided by youth offending teams suggest that only 6 per cent of young offenders are able to continue their education after they are released.
The watchdogs said the Government should consider introducing public service agreement targets for schools to admit more excluded and ex-offender pupils.
John Graham, the commission's associate director and the report's co-author, said targets would need to be set for individual schools. The report recommended that schools which took on excluded pupils should be given extra funding and training.
Headteachers' associations said schools would welcome extra support. But the National Association of Head Teachers and Secondary Heads Association were strongly opposed to such targets.
John Dunford, SHA general secretary, said some undersubscribed schools already had the unbearable burden of years in which up to 15 per cent of pupils had been excluded from elsewhere.
Other recommendations included keeping jailed pupils on school rolls to improve their chances of reintegration on release and that councils should carry out a census of young people who are not in school. The Office for Standards in Education has estimated that around 10,000 children are missing from education, but researchers believe the real figure is far higher.
The Department for Education and Skills said it would examine all of the report's recommendations but that it was too early to say whether it would implement the targets or the incentives.
Youth Justice 2004 and Youth Offending: The delivery of community and custodial sentences are at www.audit-commission.gov.uk