The number of pupils expelled from schools in England fell during the last academic year to just below 9,500, according to figures released today.
There were 9,440 permanent exclusions from primary, secondary and all special schools in 2004/5 - a 4% drop compared with the previous year's figure of 9,880.
Schools Minister Jim Knight welcomed the figures, released by the Department for Education and Skills (Dfes), and said: "Pupil behaviour in the majority of schools is good for most of the time.
"Ofsted has reported improvements in behaviour in our classrooms this year, rating it as satisfactory or better in 94% of secondary and 99% of primary schools.
"But it takes only a handful of poorly behaved pupils to make life difficult for staff and disrupt the education of other pupils.
"The message to the minority is clear - schools can and will act robustly."
In 2004/05, 85% of permanent exclusions were from secondary schools, 12% from primary schools and 3% from special schools.
The figures revealed that around 26 in every 10,000 pupils of mixed ethnic
origin were permanently excluded from school.
Black pupils had the same exclusion rate, which was around twice that for white pupils.
These rates were similar to the previous year.
A comparison of the lower level ethnic groups showed that permanent exclusion rates were highest for travellers of Irish heritage (78 in every 10,000 pupils) and white and black Caribbean (41 in every 10,000 pupils) groups.
Over the past five years, boys have represented around 80% of the total number of permanent exclusions.
The most common point for both boys and girls to be excluded is at ages 13 and 14 - more than 46% of all permanent and fixed period expulsions involved pupils of this age.
Colette Marshall, UK director of Save the Children, also welcomed the fall in the number of exclusions, and said: "It is often the most vulnerable children in our society who are excluded from school, for example, children with special educational needs or young carers.
"Many children drop out of education completely following a permanent exclusion. This is damaging for society as a whole as well as for the child involved.
"Save the Children believes that where exclusion does take place, it is vital that pupils are fully involved in the process. This gives them a chance to make a positive choice about their future, which is good for them, society and the school.
"We are calling for an addition to the Education and Inspections Bill that will ensure the involvement of children."