North/South divide revealed in Ofsted report shows 'unequal' life chances for England's state school pupils

Today’s Ofsted report lays bare what many in education have long known.

That there is a north/south divide in education and therefore unequal life chances for pupils in English state schools.

It's clear that the odds are stacked against you in the north and in coastal towns and remote areas in particular.

This plays right into the larger concerns about England as an unequal society, and the lack of social mobility within it.

410,000

Number of pupils in schools in the North and Midlands that are 'under-performing'.

Beware those who see education as a dry subject about school policy.

Think how the parents of the 410,000 children in the North and the Midlands who are attending a school judged “not good enough” feel this morning.

One of the reasons the statistics are so stark is not that the north has fallen suddenly behind; It's that the South - in particular London - has pulled away.

The success of London schools is a stand out moment in recent educational history.

Politicians argue about the reasons and each claims credit.

Labour for it’s London Challenge project which saw schools work together to improve standards, and the coalition for their rigorous reform programme implemented with zeal by Michael Gove. In truth, both added something to the success story.

Improvements in education take time to work through the system.

2014 file photo: Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted Chief Inspector, in a SE London nursery Credit: PA

But Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, himself a former London head teacher, is arguing that what happened in London can and must be repeated elsewhere.

In his report he argues that the failure can not be excused away by linking education underachievement to deprivation.

On the contrary, he argues that with political will - from the local authorities – and with inspired leadership from head teachers failing schools in the North can improve and help to offer equal life chances to the children within them who deserve better.

79%

Percentage of schools in southern England rated as good or outstanding.

68%

Percentage of schools in the North of England and the Midlands rated as good or outstanding.

The head teacher at Oasis Academy in the remote coastal town of Immington on Humberside agrees.

Kevin Rowlands has made it his passion to improve standards at the school where he has been head for 5 years. And he has done so. Results were below national average when he took over and they are now in line with the average.

He has ambitions to raise them further and to do better than “requires improvement” in his next Ofsted inspection. He is part of the Future Leaders Trust initiative to support talented teachers as leaders where they are needed most.

He says the greatest challenges are attracting and retaining staff and raising aspirations of the pupils.

But he told me as long as English schools offer unequal opportunities life will remain unfair and he will remain as a head teacher fighting for his pupils.

Less reported in today’s report – but also important are the conclusions about the falling standards in the Further Education Sector and problems with standards amongst apprentice providers. This is something ITV News intends to examine in full.