The chairman of Ofsted, David Hoare, has apologised for calling the Isle of Wight a "poor white ghetto" that suffers from "inbreeding".
Hoare said the island was blighted by a "mass of crime, drug problems, huge underemployment", and under-performing schools.
"They think of it as holiday land," he said at a recent teaching conference reported by the Times Educational Supplement.
"But it is shocking. It’s a ghetto. There has been inbreeding. Seven state schools were all less than good."
The former City banker's comments were roundly criticised, and he apologised for any offence he may have caused, insisting that he only intended to show concern about education standards on the island.
Isle of Wight Council Leader Jonathan Bacon condemned Hoare's comments as an "insult to the proud and hardworking Isle of Wight community".
He said he would contact Education Secretary Justine Greening to seek an explanation from Hoare about his comments.
Green Party Education Spokeswoman Vix Lowthion also waded into the row, saying Hoare's comments made him "unfit" for his position, and called on him to step down.
Ofsted moved quickly to distance itself from Hoare's comments, saying his views "do not reflect the views of Ofsted or the chief inspector [of schools]".
Isle of Wight resident Rebecca Roncoroni has started an online petition calling for Hoare to be sacked.
Roncoroni dismissed Hoare's comments as "appalling", and said the Isle of Wight has suffered for many years because its socio-economic problems "have not been recognised by successive governments".
The Isle of Wight is one of England's most under-performing areas for education, and last year, it was named as one of 16 local authorities where less than 60% of children have below average attainment levels.