During the Teach First conference in Leeds last week, David Hoare, the chairman of the British education watchdog Ofsted, called the Isle of Wight "a poor, white ghetto, where there has been inbreeding." His words provoked a wave of strong criticism nationwide, and he even faced calls for his resignation.
Hoare apologized publicly in short order:
"My intention was to highlight how concerned I am about the unacceptably poor performance of schools on the Isle of Wight over many years and how this is damaging the prospects of young people who live on the island."
Hoare, a former City banker who also owns a holiday home near the Isle of Wight, said in an interview with TES that coastal towns had often been ignored in terms of poverty and academic underperformance, reports Hannah Richardson of the BBC. He added that most people went there for sailing but did not pay attention to the surrounding world and the poor communities.
As Josh Halliday and Sally Weale of The Guardian noted, Ofsted distanced itself from its chairman, pointing out that Hoare's opinions do not represent the views of Ofsted or the chief inspector of schools. A spokesperson insisted that Hoare expressed his personal position on the topic.
Councillor Jonathan Bacon, the leader of the Isle of Wight Council, opposed to the Ofsted boss's comments, calling them "ill-judged," writes Javier Espinoza of The Telegraph. The Councillor also found them insulting to the hardworking local community. Bacon personally invited Hoare to visit the isle to clarify his opinion in respect of his views on Isle residents. He also commented that the Isle had made significant progress in terms of education standards despite limited government funding.
Vix Lowthion, the Green Party education spokesperson, agreed that the Isle did face serious education issues, but disapproved the terms Hoare used to describe the situation. As Rachel Pells of The Independent wrote, these problems were persistent in other coastal areas as well:
"We need support and investment, not name calling."
John Pugh, the Liberal Democrat education spokesman, said that Hoare's comments were both insulting and ignorant. According to Pugh, many coastal communities have very good schools, but those who do not are not supported by the government.
Joy Ballard, the headteacher at Ryde Academy on the Isle of Wight, said she hoped none of her students came across Hoare's comments. Ballard was shocked that someone in a senior position was able to describe local schools' underperformance in such a cruel, damaging, and thoughtless way. She also commented that she truly believed in the potential she saw in her students, and that some were underachievers because of the poor standards in schools and the traditionally low expectations of them.