Ofsted chair David Hoare has apologised for “any upset or offence” caused by his comments describing the Isle of Wight as a poor “ghetto” that suffers from “inbreeding”.
As exclusively revealed by TES, the former City businessman had linked the poor educational standards on the island with wider social problems.
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."
The comments led to calls for his resignation.
But in a statement this afternoon, Mr Hoare has apologised, insisting he was trying to highlight “how concerned I am about the unacceptably poor performance of schools” on the island.
"I apologise for any upset or offence that I may have caused by the comments I made about the Isle of Wight at the recent Teach First conference,” he said in a statement.
"My intention was to highlight how concerned I am about the unacceptably poor performance of schools on the Isle of Wight over many years and how this is damaging the prospects of young people who live on the island.
“Those who know me will realise that I am passionate about improving outcomes for children from our most disadvantaged communities and my comments were made in this context,” he added.
"It is important that we draw attention to low educational standards, especially among low-income white British communities in our coastal areas, so that collective action is taken to improve the situation.”
Angela Rayner, Labour’s shadow education secretary, said Mr Hoare’s comments were “shocking and ill-judged”.
“He should know better than to demonise an entire population in this way. It is offensive, unproductive and patronising – especially when viewed from the lofty confines of his home overlooking the island.
"He should keep his dinner-party conversations to himself in future and concentrate instead on raising standards in schools on the Isle of Wight and across the country.”
But Vix Lowthion, the Green Party’s education spokesperson, said the Ofsted chair’s comments left him “unfit” to continue in his role and called for him to resign.
“'I am absolutely appalled that the chairman of Ofsted thinks it helpful, truthful or professional to describe our families and young people in that way,” Ms Lowthion said. "I think it reflects more on himself than it does on our hardworking teachers and schools.”
Isle of Wight council leader Jonathan Bacon said that he would be contacting education secretary Justine Greening to seek an explanation.
"David Hoare's comments about 'inbreeding' and 'ghettos' on the Isle of Wight are truly offensive to the people of the Isle of Wight and bear no relation to the facts,” he said.
"It is deeply disappointing that such a senior figure has made such offensive and un-evidenced comments and I will be asking the secretary of state for education to ask Mr Hoare to account for his comments at the earliest opportunity.”
Adrian Prandle, director of economic strategy and negotiations at the ATL, said: “This is the latest in a line of outspoken comments from Ofsted’s leaders despite Ofsted having much work to do to put its own house in order to ensure the inspections of our schools are reliable.
"Teachers and pupils in coastal, isolated and deprived areas face serious challenges due to the isolation, poverty and lack of local jobs."
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