Speaking at a book launch on school under-achievement, Michael Gove said: “There is a real problem of ambition in certain traditional communities, like East Durham, which needs to change.”
He blamed the long-established ruling Labour Party for contributing towards there being “no choice” in aspirations.
Labour leaders hit back, saying the area’s schools are high achievers and that millions of pounds have been invested in education, despite the Coalition government withdrawing the Building Schools for the Future scheme.
More top news
The annual event, which has attracted upwards of 50,000 people, is back in Centre Square on July 15 and 16.
Sunderland are just three points behind sixteenth placed Middlesbrough despite a 4-0 home defeat to Southampton in their last league outing.
Macmillan Cancer Support’s mobile service will be visiting the region, with cancer information specialists on hand to answer questions.