MEASURES to raise educational standards and the drive to enrol more children with special needs in mainstream schools are cancelling each other out.
So say both mainstream and special needs teachers, struggling to manage what they say are the contradictions in the Government's education agenda.
The Secondary Heads Association and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers have published a joint statement on behaviour management for disruptive pupils.
It emphasises the role of parents and governors in supporting discipline, and the responsibility of schools to establish effective and impartial behaviour management policies.
But it rejects the imposition of targets, and calls on the Government to fund a network of high quality off-site placements for pupils at risk of exclusion and those who have been expelled.
John Dunford, SHA general secretary, and Nigel de Gruchy, leader of the NASUWT, said schools were being pressed by education authorities not to exclude unruly children - which meant other pupils' education was suffering.
Mr de Gruchy said: "One target is knocking out another. Targets for GCSE test results are being made much more difficult to achieve by insisting on these exclusion reduction targets."
School league tables and targets were threatening the drive to include special needs children in mainstream schools, a recent conference organised by Mencap, the charity for mentally-handicapped people, was told.
Pauline Maddison, chief education services officer in Bexley, London, said she sympathised with mainstream headteachers, under pressure to meet GCSE performance targets, who resisted taking on special needs pupils.
These pressures, combined with too many new government schemes and failure by agencies such as social services and health to work together to support integration, are proving a major barrier to special needs children.
"Multi-agency working is still the weakest point in the Government's action programme on special educational needs.
"As professionals working in the field, it's well-nigh impossible to achieve multi-agency working with all the pressures relating to the other agendas flying around," said Ms Maddison.