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
A woman described as being 'allergic to life' has opened a craft centre in Hartlepool to help her cope with her rare condition.
An extreme sports show has rolled into Wearside. The Torque show features everything from monster trucks to motorbikes.
Severe weather has caused untold damage to the region on what was one of the hottest days of the decade.