Ofsted’s chairman, David Hoare, has described one of England’s most educationally underperforming areas as a poor white "ghetto" that suffers from "inbreeding".
The former City businessman has linked low school results on the Isle of Wight to social problems he says exist in the area.
Mr Hoare, who has a home near the island, told teachers last week that it was often a topic of conversation with his dinner party guests.
"They think of it as holiday land. But it is shocking," he said. "It’s a ghetto; there has been inbreeding.
"Seven state schools were all less than good. There is a mass of crime, drug problems, huge unemployment."
The Ofsted chair was discussing the importance of improving education for the most disadvantaged at a Teach First conference in Leeds.
Coastal towns ignored
He said coastal towns were often ignored in terms of poverty and educational underperformance.
"I have a house overlooking the Isle of Wight and often over a dinner party, someone will ask ‘How is education?’" he said.
"I say, ‘Fantastic, I love doing what I am doing. We’re really going to make a difference.’ But I say, ‘We’re living seven miles away from the second worst local authority when it comes to secondary education and the third worst when it comes to primary education’.
"And I say ‘Where is it? Portsmouth? No. Chichester? No. Bognor? No. We’re seven miles away and you don’t know we have a ghetto seven miles away’. British, white, poor, living on the Isle of Wight."
He added: "Most people go there for sailing for two weeks a year. There’s a sailing club that is one of the best in the world, where there’s champagne.
"But just within inches, there are people who live in a ghetto and we’ve allowed it to happen."
Meanwhile, Mr Hoare has said he "did not want a teacher" to become the watchdog’s next chief inspector because he was seeking someone who "would listen very closely" and understand "the issues".
His outspoken comments follow the selection of Amanda Spielman for Ofsted’s top job. Her complete lack of teaching experience provoked considerable controversy, with the NUT teaching union describing the decision as a "sad indictment" of the government’s attitude to education.
"We have just appointed our new chief inspector and she was my choice for the job," the Ofsted chairman said at a Teach First conference last week. "I particularly did not want a teacher.
"I want someone who will look at the data and the facts and understand what the issues are."
This is an edited article from the 5 August edition of TES. This week's TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here