During his speech at a teaching conference last week, Sir Michael Wilshaw, the Ofsted chief, expressed concerns that the East Midlands was the worst-performing region in the UK in terms of education. The remarks came hours after Ofsted’s regional director for the East Midlands, Chris Russell, sent an open letter to educators, politicians and all parties involved in the education system in the area that said:
“There are too many early years providers and schools of all types and phases that are not good enough. As a result, children do not achieve as well as they should.”
According to the BBC, Russell warned that primary schools in the region were not helping the higher-ability pupils enough so they could reach their potential and achieve as well as they could.
In his speech, Sir Michael emphasized that the problems of student underperformance were a concern for the whole East Midlands region. As Rachael Pells of The Independent writes, the area also had the worst GCSE results in England in 2015, with nearly 46 percent of students unable to achieve five or more A* to C grades including English and maths.
Both Ofsted officials have raised concerns that the poor quality of schooling would first affect the pupils from unprivileged backgrounds. According to the inspectorate’s data, almost 73 percent of East Midlands’ students eligible for free school meals were unable to achieve the expected standards at GCSE, proving that local children performed worse than in any other region. As Sally Weale of The Guardian noted, the issue illustrated the ever-widening education divide between the North and the South of the country.
Sir Michael commented:
“These statistics should serve as a wake-up call. The low quality of schooling in many parts of the East Midlands often passes under the radar as attention is focused on underperformance in the bigger cities of the North and West Midlands, such as Manchester, Liverpool, and Birmingham.”
According to Wilshaw, the reasons for the “decidedly second division” education in the region were complex. He noted that too many students were let down by mediocre provisions and “the culture of complacency,” writes Richard Vaughan of TES. The collective failure of the local political and educational leaders was also blamed for the poor academic performance of the pupils.
Responding to the Ofsted concerns, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders Malcolm Trobe said that it was disappointing that Ofsted was making such a sweeping generalization about schooling across an entire region. According to him, such a broad generalization resulted in damaging the morale of parents, academic staff, and students. Trobe also suggested that the reasons for the struggling positions of some schools in the area should be more carefully examined first.
The National Association of Head Teachers general secretary Russell Hobby suggested that it would be better if leaders could avoid the crude labeling of whole areas. According to him, there were both excellent and struggling schools in East Midlands, just as there are in every other region of Britain.