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Education watchdog chief apologises over Isle of Wight 'inbreeding' comments

The chairman of education watchdog Ofsted has apologised for any offence caused by his description of the Isle of Wight as a ghetto suffering from inbreeding.

David Hoare, a former city banker, made his comments while discussing the importance of improving education for the disadvantaged at a Teach First conference in Leeds, prompting criticism that he was "out of touch" by the leader of the Isle of Wight Council.

The TES reported Mr Hoare's comments as: "Most people go there for sailing for two weeks a year. There's a sailing club that is one of the best in the world, where there's champagne.

"But just within inches, there are people who live in a ghetto and we've allowed it to happen."

He added: "They think of it as holiday land. But it is shocking. It's a ghetto; there has been inbreeding."

He also said coastal towns were often ignored in terms of poverty and educational under-performance.

Mr Hoare said in a statement: "I apologise for any upset or offence that I may have caused by the comments I made about the Isle of Wight at the recent Teach First conference.

"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.

"Those who know me will realise that I am passionate about improving outcomes for children from our most disadvantaged communities and my comments were made in this context.

"It is important that we draw attention to low educational standards, especially among low-income white British communities in our coastal areas, so that collective action is taken to improve the situation.

"Indeed, I welcome the efforts that are being made, supported by Hampshire County Council, to improve school performance on the island."

Isle of Wight council leader Jonathan Bacon said he would contact Secretary of State for Education Justine Greening about the comments.

He said: "David Hoare's comments about 'inbreeding' and 'ghettos' on the Isle of Wight are truly offensive to the people of the Isle of Wight and bear no relation to the facts.

"Mr Hoare should apologise immediately for these comments or provide evidence to support these assertions.

"It is deeply disappointing that such a senior figure has made such offensive and un-evidenced comments, and I will be asking the Secretary of State for Education to ask Mr Hoare to account for his comments at the earliest opportunity.

"It would be refreshing if the Ofsted chairman was able to make a positive contribution to improving education on the Isle of Wight rather than making facile and offensive comments.

"Some of Mr Hoare's other comments about the challenges in raising attainment for 'working class white boys' are well known and national issues.

"Similarly, the challenges for many seaside economies have been well documented in last year's report from the Future Leaders Trust.

"The ability of coastal councils such as the Isle of Wight to respond to these challenges has been severely curtailed by significant reductions in Government funding as part of its austerity agenda and which has taken no account of the need for services or the specific geography of an area.

"At the same time the Government has increased the burdens it places on local government, effectively making it do more for less.

"Over the past six years the Isle of Wight council has had to find budget savings of over £60 million and will need to save a further £34 million over the next four years to stay within the spending limits set for it by government.

"Despite these financial challenges, the Isle of Wight council has been working hard with its community and partners to raise standards and attainment across all of the Island's schools.

"Mr Hoare is clearly out of touch with his own service as he references the amount of inadequate schools on the Island.

"In fact, thanks in great part to our school improvement services we now have only one school on the Island that is rated as inadequate, in line with national averages.

"Our school improvement services are now rated as effective by Ofsted themselves."

An Ofsted spokesman said: "The chairman was expressing his personal views. They do not reflect the views of Ofsted or the Chief Inspector."

Vix Lowthion, Green Party spokeswoman for education, called for Mr Hoare to resign over his comments.

Ms Lowthion, a secondary school teacher on the Isle of Wight, said: "I am absolutely appalled that the chairman of Ofsted thinks it helpful, truthful or professional to describe our families and young people in that way.

"I think it reflects more on himself than it does on our hard-working teachers and schools.

"He has insulted residents of coastal towns across the country and should resign."

Liberal Democrat education spokesman John Pugh said: "To blame poor performance by the island's schools on inbreeding is both insulting and ignorant.

"Many coastal communities have excellent schools and those that don't are not helped by the sort of unenlightened attitude that would have been challenged even in Victorian times.

"It's not inbreeding which is the problem, but rather the Tories' unnecessary and ideological assault on our children's schools whether it be through their failed forced academisation policy or outright refusal to listen to teachers about what is best for their students.

"If the best Mr Hoare can do is bring saloon bar comment to complex educational problems you have to wonder how he ended up as chair of Ofsted."

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