Ofsted has warned that the leadership capacity to improve schools is worryingly thin and in some cases it does not exist.
The inspectorate’s annual report says that although 86 per cent of schools were found to be "good" or better at their last inspection, there are almost 500 "stuck" schools across England that have been judged "inadequate" or "requires improvement" at every inspection since 2005.
The report, published today, warns that some children may have been in a failing school for their entire time at secondary school.
Ofsted says more "outstanding" schools and school leaders are needed to help these schools improve.
The report says: “Across the country, turnaround rates for underperforming schools remain too slow. A lack of sponsor capacity means some schools have been left in limbo for over 18 months before joining a multi-academy trust."
It adds: “Crucial to delivering a good service is having the right resources – a qualified workforce and strong leadership in order to be 'good' or better. However, the annual report finds that in too many cases the capacity to improve schools does not exist.”
Chief inspector Amanda Spielman said: “There are still too many children who lag behind: children for whom it seems the die is cast even before entering nursery, and who never catch up in 12 years of schooling.
Schools that 'haven't improved for a decade'
“Wealth remains a predictor, albeit a weaker one of educational performance.
“New problems have emerged as well. A child in Hackney is more likely to fulfil their potential than ever before but in some of our coastal towns and white working-class communities, attainment, progress and aspiration are too low. Sink schools may have disappeared but some schools that haven’t improved for more than a decade remain.”
She said that often the schools which were failing served white working-class communities.
Ms Spielman added: “As long as children are attending schools that are perpetually less than 'good', we have a problem. What makes the inequity even starker is that many of these schools are concentrated in particular parts of the country, serving the same demographic groups, often the white working class.
"I make no apology for not giving these schools an easier judgement. I never want us to be saying that this education wouldn’t do for Chelsea children but its good enough for Grimsby.
“The moment we allow for a different quality of education based on demographics is the moment we concede defeat in the battle for equality of opportunity.
"It would be the moment we wrote off the Einsteins, Mozarts and Brontes of the future.”