At least one child aged five or under is expelled from school every week and dozens more are suspended as bad behaviour among pupils soars. Official Government figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show that increasing numbers of children are being barred from primary school for offences as serious as sexual assault, theft, racism and even drug dealing.
In an alarming disclosure, it is revealed that 230 pupils are suspended and six are permanently excluded from primary schools in England every day during term time.
In the reception year alone, 60 pupils aged four or five were expelled in just 12 months - a three-fold increase compared to year earlier. A further 960 - or five a day - were suspended.
The findings will fuel concerns that bad behaviour among teenagers is increasingly trickling down to the very youngest children. Teachers claim that many pupils arrive at school without any sense of respect for adults as parents fail to impose any discipline in the home. advertisement
Last week, the National Union of Teachers, Britain's biggest teaching union, voted to walk out of the classroom if pupils who attack staff are allowed to remain in school. One teacher from Halifax warned that in the last 12 months colleagues had been 'bitten, thumped, kicked and spat on' by children in primary schools.
According to the Department for Education and Skills, 43,720 pupils were temporarily excluded from primary schools in 2004/5 - the latest available figures - an increase of 2,420 in a year. A further 1,090 pupils were permanently excluded, down on 1,270 a year earlier.
Worryingly, a significant number of pupils suspended from school had been punished for serious offences, such as sexual attacks on fellow pupils and teachers.
In total, 330 pupils were suspended for racism, which includes taunting, swearing, bullying or graffiti with a racist element.
A further 310 pupils were sent home from school for sexual misconduct, which includes sexual abuse or assault of fellow pupils, lewd behaviour or sexual bullying or graffiti.
There were another 150 drug and alcohol-related incidents which relate to drug dealing, the possession of illegal drugs, smoking and alcohol abuse. But most concerns surrounded the behaviour of pupils in the reception year, which accept children as young as four.
According to the figures, 960 were suspended in 2004/5, or five for every day of term.
A survey of local authorities shows that four reception class pupils were suspended in Medway, Kent, for attacking adults, one was suspended for assaulting a fellow pupil and another for vandalism.
In the London borough of Bexley, one four-year-old was expelled for threatening and verbally abusing an adult.
In Wiltshire, four young boys were all suspended for physical attacks on classmates and in Solihull a boy and a girl were both suspended for fighting with fellow schoolchildren.
In Lancashire, one boy was suspended for bullying, nine for attacking adults, six for assaulting fellow pupils and one for persistent disruptive behaviour.
One five-year-old hit the headlines last year after becoming what was believed to be the youngest girl ever to be expelled from school. She constantly disrupted classes as well as physically and verbally attacking teachers and classmates. On one occasion, she attacked six members of staff during a severe temper tantrum at the school in Withington, Manchester.
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers warned in a report at its annual conference in Bournemouth earlier this month of "rampant" bad behaviour in classrooms. Teachers blamed a "lack of parental guidance" for a widespread lack of respect for school staff.
Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the NUT, said the increase was down to a "growing selfishness and lack of respect" in society since the 1980s.
"A small minority of parents do not teach their children respect for others and how to control their anger," he said.
"As a result some children end up being suspended as the school and parents work at trying to teach those pupils the need to respect others.
"It is very discouraging that any child ends up suspended. But it is better to disrupt the education of those 40,000 pupils to protect the education of the vast majority of the 3.5 million primary school pupils. Just one child misbehaving in a class makes it difficult for the other 29 pupils to concentrate or the teacher to carry on with the lesson."
The figures also reveal a stark difference in behaviour between the sexes, with 10 boys being suspended for every one girl at primary school.
In Telford and Wrekin, a boy in Year 1 - aged five or six - was suspended for sexual misconduct while a Year 2 pupil was suspended for a drugs and alcohol offence, the figures show.
In the London Borough of Havering, one 10-year-old boy was expelled for continual bad behaviour and bringing a knife to school.
However, Ofsted, the education watchdog, says that behaviour in primary schools has improved.
Last year, the proportion of primaries judged to have failed to deal with bad behaviour was less than half of one percent compared with 2 per cent in 1997.
Ministers say it reflects the "tough approach" that many primary schools are taking to tackle out-of-control children.
Earlier this month, teachers were given extra powers to restrain violent pupils under new laws. They explicitly state that teachers have the right to physically restrain and remove unruly pupils. They can also impose detentions and frisk children for weapons without parental permission.
A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills said: "These new figures reflect the tough approach that many primary schools are taking to tackle bad behaviour. Parents must play a key role in cases of serious misbehaviour too, especially at this young age - we need parents working with schools, not against them."
960 reception year pupils suspended
60 reception year pupils excluded
330 pupils suspended for racism
310 suspended for sexual misconduct
150 suspended for drugs and alcohol related incidents