A 'culture of complacency' and a collective failure by educational and political leaders are to blame for the East Midlands having the worst-performing schools in the country, Ofsted has warned
The education on offer in parts of the East Midlands is "decidedly second division", chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw added.
But one headteachers' leader responded angrily to the statements, saying he was "disappointed" that Ofsted had made "a sweeping generalisation" about the region and it risked damaging the morale of staff, students and parents.
Another said the "crude labelling" of whole regions displayed a "threadbare strategy" for raising standards.
Educational fault line
Ofsted warned that the low standards in primary and secondary schools across the East Midlands had exposed the "educational fault line" dividing the north and south of the country.
According to the inspectorate, the East Midlands is currently the joint lowest-performing Ofsted region in terms of inspection outcomes, with almost one in three secondary schools judged less than good at their last inspection.
The region had the worst GCSE results in England in 2015. Nearly 46 per cent of pupils did not achieve the benchmark five or more A*-C grades including English and maths.
Sir Michael said the statistics should serve as a "wake-up call".
"The poor quality of education in many parts of the East Midlands often passes under the radar as attention is focused on underperformance in the bigger cities of the North and West Midlands, like Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham," he said. "However, in many ways, the problems in this region symbolise more than anywhere else the growing educational divide between the South and the rest of England that I highlighted in my last annual report."
Performance is equally poor in both the major urban centres and the more rural councils, Sir Michael added.
"National politicians and policymakers must start to worry more about what is happening north of the Wash. They should be asking why schools in large parts of the East Midlands aren’t doing better," the former headteacher said.
While Leicester City Football Club were crowned Premier League champions this year, the city’s education standards are decidedly second division, he added.
"As chief inspector, I am calling on local politicians across the region to do significantly more to challenge and support their local schools, regardless of whether they are academies or under local authority control."
Greater oversight needed
Sir Michael’s comments coincide with a letter from Ofsted East Midlands regional director Chris Russell to the main education players in Northamptonshire.
In it, Mr Russell says that "too many" schools across all phases in Northamptonshire are not good enough.
"As a result, children do not achieve as well as they should. Disadvantaged children in the county are performing particularly poorly," Mr Russell writes. "There needs to be greater oversight and coordinated action from those accountable for educational provision in the county."
But Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, was not impressed with Ofsted’s decision to publish the comments about the East Midlands.
He said: “It is disappointing that Ofsted has issued a press release which makes a sweeping generalisation about education across an entire region. It risks damaging the morale of staff, pupils and parents.
“The majority of schools in the East Midlands are judged by Ofsted to be outstanding or good, just as they are across England.”
Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “We need to get beyond the crude labelling of whole regions. It shows a threadbare strategy.
"The truth is there are great schools and struggling schools in the East Midlands, like every region of the country. It is hard to see how broad generalisations like this take us any further forward in raising standards.”
Education secretary Nicky Morgan said the East Midlands had “improved drastically” since the start of recent education reforms.
She said: “There are now 119,000 more pupils in good or outstanding schools than in 2010 – an increase greater than the English average. This is a testament to the hard work of teachers across the region in implementing our reforms.”
She added that some part of the country were “not yet good enough” and programmes such a Teach First and the National Teaching Service would help.