The former Ofsted chief inspector was accused of “miserably spreading misery”, and his comments were branded “unhelpful and unnecessary” by the boss of one northern multi-academy trust.
Speaking at the Northern Powerhouse Conference on education and skills in Leeds last Friday, Sir Michael said: “Academisation doesn’t seem to have made much of a difference in the North and the Midlands. Doncaster, where every secondary school is an academy, has a miserable attainment score and progress scores.”
“Practically all the worst performing academy trusts preside in the North and in the Midlands, with a dozen or so so bad that they have effectively been closed down, with their constituent schools handed to other trusts."
Sir Michael added that successful academy trusts in the South should “come to the North of England” to raise standards.
However, northern education leaders took to Twitter to challenge his claims.
Martyn Oliver, the chief executive of Outwood Grange Academies Trust, which runs 22 schools across the North and Midlands – including two in Doncaster – and is rated the sixth best MAT in the country for progress, branded the comments “unhelpful and unnecessary”.
'Fantastic' MATs in the North
“There are fantastic MATs all over England, including in the North,” he tweeted.
“I respect [Sir Michael Wilshaw] but this view is unhelpful and unnecessary.”
Mr Oliver pointed out that “four of the top 12 secondary MATs by progress are in the North”, referring to Dixons Academy Trust, Outwood Grange, Redhill Academy Trust and Delta Academies Trust.
In an interview with Tes last month, he took the opposite stance to Sir Michael on how to improve education in the North, claiming that the “talent is within” the region to complete the task and the answer does not lie with luring “the great MATs from the South”.
Mr Oliver was not the only northern education leader to take issue with Sir Michael’s comments.
Sara Rawnsley, head of teacher recruitment and retention for Bradford Council, tweeted: “Miserable Wilshaw miserably spreading misery”.
Sam Twiselton, the director of Sheffield Institute of Education who sat on the advisory panel for the Department for Education’s Carter Review of teacher training, tweeted that while there was “no room for complacency”, there was “some real excellence to build on” in the region.
Responding to a tweet saying that Sir Michael had “thrown down the gauntlet” to the Northern Alliance of Trusts, which was set up by five MATs to improve the education system in the region, Libby Nicholas, the CEO of Astrea Academy Trust, who helped to set up the alliance, tweeted: “We are on it.”