Sir Michael Wilshaw
Sir Michael Wilshaw  said underachievement had shifted from urban areas to "less fashionable" coastal regions of the country.

Teachers could be enlisted to do "national service" at failing schools in deprived coastal towns and remote rural areas, the head of Ofsted has said.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of schools, outlined plans for the most gifted staff to be parachuted into the country's "less fashionable, more remote or challenging places".

These 'national service teachers' could be recruited through incentives such as higher pay and faster career progression.

Wilshaw said that, while school standards in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Leicester have been transformed over 30 years, the problem of underachievement has shifted from cities to smaller towns and deprived, outlying areas of the country, particularly in the east and south-east of England.

He spoke of "unseen children ... in mediocre schools the length and breadth of our country ... consigned as often as not to indifferent teaching.

"They coast through education until - at the earliest opportunity - they sever their ties with it."

Wilshaw said the ethos of military service could be applied to the teaching profession to create the national service-style template, adding: "The most important factor in reversing these trends is to attract and incentivise the best people to the leadership of underperforming schools in these areas."

However Wilshaw's plans have been greeted with scepticism by Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, who called on the government to work with teachers to improve existing schools, rather than devising eye-catching measures to "parachute in ... elite teachers".

"The government and Ofsted must start listening to teachers and heads, and work with them to improve education in ways which don't continually demoralise teachers" Bousted said.

"Instead of setting up a group of elite teachers to parachute into schools facing challenges, it would be better to help existing teachers, who are only too well aware of the problems, to support their most disadvantaged pupils.

"Teachers passionately want to improve opportunities for all children and young people, and are deeply frustrated by funding cuts and breakneck changes of policy."

Education secretary Michael Gove has recently angered teachers with a plan to make them work longer hours and do menial tasks such as photocopying.

Teachers' unions accused education secretary Gove of trying to "destroy teaching as an attractive profession".