The government has defended the right of head teachers to exclude pupils from school, after figures show a large number of primary-age children are removed from lessons every year.
Figures obtained from the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) under the Freedom of Information Act show more than 1,000 children are permanently expelled from primary schools every year.
This includes 60 under-fives, with the number of very young child expelled from school tripling in recent years.
DfES figures show 43,720 primary-age children were given fixed-term exclusions in 2004-05, an increase of 2,420 since 2003-04. Boys were far more likely to be suspended, with 42,140 temporarily excluded compared to 4,200 girls.
The department defended the seemingly high figures, claiming head teachers must be given the power to make the "tough decision" to expel pupils when necessary.
A DfES spokesperson said: "Clearly it is better to prevent bad behaviour from happening in the first place than to punish it when it occurs and the social and emotional aspect of learning programme has reaped huge rewards in primary schools with behaviour showing a marked improvement."
The vast majority of children are well behaved, the department insisted. Ofsted found that pupil behaviour is good in the majority of schools, including 99 per cent of primary schools.
"These examples of extreme behaviour represent a miniscule proportion of the three-and-a-half million children in our primary schools," the spokesperson claimed.
Reasons for exclusion included racist abuse, sexual misconduct and problems with drink and drugs.
Ministers argue parents have a "vital role to play" in insuring children learn acceptable standards of behaviour for school.
New measures introduced from September will enable head teachers to demand parenting orders when parents are unwilling or unable to discipline their children.