FEWER children would be referred to special schools if mainstream teachers were better at managing their behaviour, according to an unpublished report from the Office of Standards in Education.
The report tells ministers that teachers in all kinds of schools need a better understanding of pupils with emotional and behavioural difficulties, and suggests providing more specialised in-service training courses for them.
Kathy Bull, the special needs HMI, said the report argues that special schools must not be allowed to become "out of sight, out of mind dumping grounds" for children that mainstream schools can't cope with.
Special and mainstream schools should work more closely together - particularly on reintegrating children back into the mainstream and providing for teacher exchange. Ministers will welcome the report's call for closer working relationships as it fits well with its policies of including special needs pupils in mainstream settings and reducing exclusions.
But teaching unions - particularly those that have campaigned to remove disruptive pupils from mainstream classrooms - may be less enamoured of its findings.
The survey, carried out by Her Majesty's Inspectorate, is based on nearly two years of work. It included classroom observations and surveys of parents, pupils, heads, education authorities, psychologists and welfare officers Ms Bull, speaking at the inaugural meeting of the National Association of EBD Schools, said: "Headteachers of EBD schools in this survey frequently bemoaned the lack of understanding of mainstream colleagues over the management of behaviour."
The report says procedures for transferring pupils between sectors need to be improved. Pupils could remain on roll at their mainstream school while attending another for additional support, or be jointly enrolled at both.
Special schools could help pupils transferring back into mainstream classes by providing individualised short-term support programmes.
Special schools make up more than half of all the schools failed by inspectors. However, teaching quality has improved dramatically - up last year to 83 per cent of lessons rated at least satisfactory.