The number of children permanently excluded from schools in England has fallen for the first time in three years, government figures show.
Exclusion rates varied widely among ethnic groups
There were 9,290 expulsions from primary, secondary and special schools in 2002-3, a decrease
of 3% from 9,535 the previous year.
However, the proportion of pupils affected hardly changed, as school rolls also fell during the period.
Meanwhile, a poll by the Conservative Party suggests seven out of 10 adults think problems with truancy and poor discipline have increased in recent years.
1 - July 1998: target set of reducing exclusions by a third by September 2002
2 - July 1999: government Circular 10/99 toughens the exclusion guidelines
3 - April 2000: Education secretary signals change of heart after head teachers complain
4 - May 2001: Exclusion targets dropped
The Department for Education and Skills found 83% of those expelled in 2002-3 were from secondary schools, 14% were from primaries and 3% from special schools.
Exclusion was most common among 14 year olds, while, 82% of all those banned from schools were boys.
In terms of pupils' ethnic groups, those most likely to be excluded were travellers of Irish origin (51 in every 10,000). The least likely were Chinese pupils (2 in 10,000) and Indian (3 in 10,000) pupils.
In 2002-3, there were 1,074 appeals by parents against permanent exclusions, down from 1,125 the previous year.
Of these, 21.1% were successful, down from 24.4%.
New guidelines to independent appeals panels call for them to take into account the impact on the whole school of bringing back excluded pupils, and not to reinstate pupils on a technicality.
And, for the first time, the figures have been given for the proportion of successful appeals which resulted in children returning to the same institution. For 2002-3 it was 71.3%.
The overall fall in exclusions was the first since 1999-2000. In 1996-7 the number was 12,700.
Education minister Ivan Lewis said: "We are getting the balance right, helping teachers to improve behaviour in the classroom and backing their authority when pupils' behaviour warrants exclusion."
But a poll of 501 adults carried out on behalf of the Conservative Party found 72% thought truancy and poor discipline in schools had worsened.
Added to this, 74% wanted final decisions concerning expulsions of violent and disruptive pupils to rest with head teachers, rather than appeals panels, as is currently the case.
The Shadow Education Secretary, Tim Yeo, said: "Labour has spent £835m on initiatives that were supposed to get truancy under control, but an overwhelming majority think that truancy and poor discipline in schools have got worse over the last few years.
"More than one million pupils are absent from school through truancy each year, and a teacher gets attacked every seven minutes. Politicians need to show parents that they understand the scale of these problems and are committed to taking action to put things right."
The government's findings also come as the National Union of Teachers says staff are facing a "constant battle" against bad behaviour.
Two-thirds of 230 teachers questioned for its survey said indiscipline was preventing them from doing their job.