Ofsted report: North-South education gap widening

The outgoing head of Ofsted has said the performance gap between schools in the north and south of England has widened.

In his annual report, Sir Michael Wilshaw - who steps down as the watchdog's chief inspector this month - said the gulf in standards was particularly felt at secondary schools.

More than a quarter of secondaries in the North and the Midlands are still not good enough, he added.

Ofsted head Sir Michael Wilshaw. Credit: PA Wire

This year, there are 13 local authority areas where every secondary school inspected was rated either good or outstanding.

But all are in London or the South East of England.

Sir Michael said: "The geographical divides within the country are most acute for children on free school meals, the most able pupils and those who have special educational needs.

"There is also considerable evidence that it is schools in isolated and deprived areas where educational standards are low that are losing out in the recruitment stakes for both leaders and teachers."

The local authority areas where every school is judged good or outstanding. Credit: Ofsted
  • North West secondary schools of "particular concern"

There are 10 areas with 40% or more of pupils that are less than good, and where attainment and progress is below the national level in the key measures.

All but three are in the North and Midlands.

The North West was said to be of "particular concern", with the proportion of its secondary schools rated good or outstanding only increasing by 3 percentage points since 2011 - well below the national percentage points increase of 13.

And in Liverpool, half of all secondary schools were rated less than good, compared with three in 10 for Manchester, and just one in 10 for inner London.

The report reveals a regional disparity between secondary school performance Credit: PA

Other key report findings include:

  • The proportion of good and outstanding nurseries, pre-schools and childminders rose to 91%.

  • 90% of primary schools were deemed good or outstanding.

  • There are also 1.8 million more pupils in good or outstanding maintained schools than in 2010.

As he prepares to step down from his role, Sir Michael also advised the Government to "worry less about structures and more about capacity".

"No structure will be effective if the leadership is poor or there are not enough good people in the classroom."

School standards minister Nick Gibb said: "We know there is more to do, and that's precisely why we have set out plans to make more good school places available to more parents, in more parts of the country.

"This includes scrapping the ban on new grammar school places, and harnessing the resources and expertise of universities, independent and faith schools."