EARLY years education in Yorkshire prepares children for school less well than anywhere else in the country, Ofsted’s chief inspector has warned.
Sir Michael Wilshaw also told a major conference that the region’s primary and secondary schools were also among the very worst nationally with parents’ chances of getting a good education for their children varying massively depending on where they lived.
He said that while nine out of ten pupils in York went to a school which was good or better the figure was just two out of ten in Barnsley.
He was speaking at Ofsted’s first ever regional conference for Yorkshire and the North East, which took place in Leeds yesterday.
Leaders from the region including directors from local authorities, headteachers and academy chain bosses attended the event.
Ofsted said the conference was aimed at highlighting how effective school leadership can improve education standards.
Sir Michael highlighted the stark differences in standards being achieved in different parts of the country and the underperformance which affects the poorest children in Yorkshire.
Earlier this year Ofsted created a system of regional directors who have been given responsibility for tacking areas of underperformance. Nick Hudson, a former children’s services boss at Wigan Council, was appointed to be the education watchdog’s regional director for Yorkshire and the North East – which Ofsted treats as one region.
In his speech yesterday Sir Michael said one of the key challenges facing Ofsted was the “depressing underperformance” of pupils from poor backgrounds.
He said the majority of these children remain ‘unseen’ in ‘average’ schools, where national improvements in performance conceal their continued underachievement.
Sir Michael also told the audience the issues of regional variation and the gap between rich and poor were connected with big differences in the results achieved by children from disadvanted backgrounds across different local authority areas.
He said: “Let’s take this region of the North East and Yorkshire.
“Because in many ways it exemplifies, perhaps more than any other, the scale and nature of this inter-related challenge.
“It’s a region stretching from the Scottish border to North Lincolnshire. And, as you well know, it is a region of contrasts – taking in the relative rural isolation of North Yorkshire and Northumberland, major conurbations around Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle, and a coastline stretching from Berwick to Grimsby.
“But this region of contrasts is reflected as much in levels of educational attainment as it is in the landscape. There are unacceptably large variations in performance across different parts of this region – as well as between this region and others.”
He said that in both Yorkshire and the North East, early years provision prepared children less well for school than anywhere else in the country.
Sir Michael added: “This is cause for profound concern because we know that the early years is the most important stage of a child’s education – so vital for determining a child’s future personal and academic success.”
He also warned that in both the primary and secondary sector Yorkshire lagged behind the rest of the country.