Ofsted chief renews warning of regional divide in education

29 Jun 16

Sir Michael Wilshaw gas renewed his warning of a regional divide in England’s education system in light of official statistics published by schools watchdog Ofsted on Wednesday.

The figures show the results of all maintained schools and academies’ inspections carried out during the first two terms of this academic year, between 1 September 2015 and 31 March 2016.

The report highlighted 24 local authorities in which less than 60% of secondary schools were judged good or outstanding. Of these, 17 were in the North and Midlands.

It also revealed that of the 416 secondary schools inspected, only 57% were rated as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’.

Wilshaw, the chief inspector of schools, voiced his concerns last year about the performance of secondary schools in the Midlands and North, especially those serving the poorest and most isolated communities. Responding to the new figures, he said: “Unfortunately, the situation hasn’t got any better. More than 40% of secondary schools inspected… were not good enough. Far too many children are being let down by the system when they reach the age of 11, simply because of where they live.

“The nation should be worried. Our future prosperity depends on this generation of young people receiving a good education. So it is vital that we raise standards for all children and find lasting solutions to close the regional divide in secondary schools.”

He pointed to teacher shortages and the quality of leadership as being of particular concern, and said it was vital to incentivise the best teachers to work in the most needy areas.

“If these challenges remain unaddressed, I fear we risk wasting the talent and potential of thousands of young people,” he said.

In February, Wilshaw warned that the government’s Northern Powerhouse project would be fundamentally weakened thanks to the underperformance of secondary schools in Manchester and Liverpool.

Responding to the figures, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, Malcolm Trobe, praised the hard work and dedication of school heads and teachers. Referring to the measure of school performance at most recent inspection, he said he was pleased to see so many (86%) schools achieving good or outstanding ratings. 

 “This continued progress has come despite severe funding pressures and teacher shortages,” he said.

“These issues must be tackled urgently in order to maintain and raise standards further... a successful education system is essential for the future economic and social well-being of our country.”

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