Ofsted chair, David Hoare, has apologised after he described the Isle of Wight as a ghetto community that suffers from inbreeding. The former city banker made the comments at a teaching conference in Leeds last month.
The Times Educational Supplement reported him as claiming that the island was plagued by "a mass of crime, drug problems, huge unemployment."
"Most people go (to the Isle of Wight) for sailing for two weeks a year," he said. "There's a sailing club that is one of the best in the world, where there's champagne.
"But, within just inches, there are people who live in a ghetto and we've allowed it to happen. Seven state schools were all less than good. There is a mass of crime, drug problems, huge unemployment. They think of it as holiday land but it is shocking. It's a ghetto; there has been inbreeding."
Hoare was forced to apologise for his statements after facing a backlash from residents on the Isle of Wight. However, he maintained that he was merely expressing his concern for falling standards at schools on the island.
"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," he said. "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 [that] 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."
Council leader, Jonathan Bacon, said Hoare's remarks were ill-judged and "an insult to the proud and hardworking Isle of Wight community".
"The Isle of Wight is working hard to raise the aspirations and attainment of our young people – something which Ofsted itself has recognised, not least in assessing our school improvement services as being effective," he said.
The councillor invited Hoare to visit the island to gain a more accurate view. "I am sure that David would want to take every opportunity to clarify his position in respect of his views on island residents, and I would be delighted if he were able to do this on a visit to the Isle of Wight, which I would be happy to host."
John Pugh, the Liberal Democrat education spokesman condemned Hoare for his scathing comments. He told The Guardian: "To blame poor performance by the island's schools on inbreeding is both insulting and ignorant," he said. "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.
"If the best Mr Hoare can do is bring saloon bar comments to complex educational problems you have to wonder how he ended up as chair of Ofsted."
Joy Ballard, the headteacher at Ryde academy on the island, said she hoped none of her pupils read the disparaging comments made by Hoare. "I'm shocked that someone in such a senior position appears to be placing the blame for schools' underperformance on the characteristics of the people who live here," she said. "If he said this, his comments are extremely damaging, thoughtless and cruel."
Ofsted, the country's education watchdog distanced itself from its chairman, insisting that Hoare's views "do not reflect the views of Ofsted or the chief inspector [of schools]".