Schools seem to have become less tolerant of pupils with behavioural problems, according to the Association of Metropolitan Authorities' review of special needs.
The review gathered evidence that schools are excluding younger children, that more pupils have statements offering additional help for emotional and behavioural problems and that an increased number of statemented pupils are being removed from mainstream classes and schools.
The review suggests that poverty, stress within families and the competition between schools because of local management have all exacerbated the situation.
The AMA, while accepting that there are no simple solutions, makes a number of recommendations. Local education authorities should monitor exclusions in more detail, identifying causes as well as numbers, says the report.
LEAs should help schools take prompt action with unmanageable children. But the most disruptive pupils should not divert attention from those - frequently girls - whose disruptive behaviour takes a quieter form.
The review also urges local authorities to develop mainstream education in such a way that schools can cope with disturbed pupils. Separate provision, it says, should be a last resort.