School performance link to Brexit vote, says Ofsted boss
The failure to improve schools in some parts of England has contributed to the feeling of being ignored revealed in the Brexit vote, the chief inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw has said.
The Ofsted boss said while standards were rising overall, the number of poorly performing schools in the north and the East Midlands would continue to fuel the sense of a divided nation.
He said the situation was very serious.
Sir Michael publishes his final annual report as chief inspector on Thursday.
In an interview with the BBC in Manchester, he said the economic future of the north of England relied on addressing the poor performance of some schools.
Sir Michael said the European Union referendum result had revealed a wider malaise, with communities feeling their needs were being ignored.
He said parents in Manchester, Liverpool and many towns in the North of England had less of a chance of seeing their children get a good job or go on to university than those in London.
“The situation is very, very serious. If you look at Manchester, the city we”re in, nearly one in three schools [is] not good. In Liverpool, half are good. If you look at satellite towns, things are worse.
“It”s feeding into a sense that the people of Liverpool, Manchester and the North are not being treated fairly – that their children have less of a chance of educational success than people south of the Wash.
“And that”s feeding into a wider malaise that I sense with the Brexit vote, that actually this wasn”t just about leaving Europe, it”s about “our needs being neglected, our children are not getting as good a deal as elsewhere”.
“Parents want to see their children doing well; they want to see them going off to university; they want to see them getting a good job.
“Well, they have less of a chance of that in this city, in Liverpool and elsewhere, and that feeds into this sense of discontent in the North and in the Midlands.”
Sir Michael said addressing education must be a government priority.
He said: “If we have an educated workforce in the North, then that will feed into the wider economy in the North and the North will do well. It”s not doing well at the moment.”
The Ofsted annual report, published on Thursday morning, will highlight that overall standards are rising, with 1.8 million more pupils in good or outstanding maintained schools in 2016 than in 2010.
During this period, the curriculum and assessment regime has become more rigorous, it will say.
Other improvements include the fact that children on free schools meals are gaining ground on their peers in national primary tests.
But the report will also say that, to become truly world class, England needs:
It will also highlight the poor quality of education in the more geographically and economically isolated parts of the country, including coastal areas.
School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said good and outstanding schools now made up 89% of all schools inspected in England.
He added: “But 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 – including scrapping the ban on new grammar school places, and harnessing the resources and expertise of universities, independent and faith schools.”
Sir Michael retires as head of Ofsted at the end of the year. He will be succeeded by Amanda Spielman, who currently chairs exams regulator Ofqual.