Schools are having to battle "an anti-learning culture" of "lost standards, values and ambitions", the chief schools inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, said yesterday, contrasting modern parents unfavourably with the working class of the 19th century.
As a result of this culture, he said, teenage pregnancy rates were still "extremely high" and 30,000 young people a year were arrested or cautioned by the police. A century ago, working-class communities had a "real respect for education", but that was no longer so, he told the National College for School Leaders conference in Birmingham.
"We need to bring back ambition to communities that lack aspiration," he added. "Schools too often have to pick up the pieces where society has failed."
Sir Michael, the chief executive of the education standards watchdog Ofsted, was particularly critical of absentee fathers, noting that one in five youngsters had only one parent at home – usually the mother. "For boys, the absence of a regular and stable male influence can be particularly difficult," he said. "Dads need to see bringing up children as the right and manly thing to do. All these issues can have a direct impact on educational outcomes. Young people need boundaries set by parents and society, not just their schools."
Sir Michael announced the setting up of a new review of urban education standards which would come up with "radical recommendations" to combat the "deep-seated"problems of disadvantage.