Ofsted boss expected to highlight north-south divide in final report

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The outgoing head of Ofsted is expected to highlight the performance gap between schools in the north and south of England when he delivers his final report on the state of the country's education today.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, who steps as the watchdog's chief inspector this month after five years in the post, is due to identify improvements in overall standards, particularly in nurseries and primary schools.

But his report is also expected to describe concerns about the quality of education in geographically and economically isolated parts of the country, while the proportion of further education colleges rated good or outstanding has also declined.

It comes after statistics published last month identified secondary schools lagging further behind primaries in giving pupils a good education.

Ofsted's figures showed more primary schools run by the local council were considered to be good or outstanding by inspectors than those that are academies.

Overall, as of the end of August, nearly nine in 10 (89%) schools in England were judged to be at least good at their latest inspection. This is up five percentage points on the same point in 2015.

A breakdown showed that 90% of primaries were deemed good or outstanding, up six percentage points on the year before, while the proportion of secondaries given one of these two ratings by inspectors rose by four percentage points over the same period to 78%.

Sir Michael has already raised concerns about secondary education, warning in his annual report last year that there is a "growing geographical divide" in standards after age 11 between the North, the Midlands and the South of England.

His fifth and final report today is expected to highlight a recruitment shortage in some secondary school teachers, an issue already identified by teaching unions this year.

The outgoing chief inspector has been repeatedly clashed with the Government over certain policy ideas, including stating a return to the grammar schools system favoured by many Conservatives as a "monumental mistake".

And last month he compared England's education system with its football team - "better than many, but hardly top notch", he said.

The figures included in today's report are expected to indicate that overall standards are rising - in 2016 there are 1.8 million more pupils in good or outstanding maintained schools than in 2010 -  while children on free schools meals are gaining ground on their peers in national primary tests.

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