Underachieving pupils more susceptible to joining EDL, says Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw

Chief Inspector of Schools says shortage of low skilled jobs could lead young people towards extremist organisations

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The Independent Online

The head of Ofsted has warned that underachieving young people could be more susceptible to joining organisations such as the English Defence League, as low skilled jobs become more difficult to secure.

During an interview, Sir Michael Wilshaw, Chief Inspector for Schools in England warned that young people who have underachieved during school could become trapped in poverty because low skilled jobs are “diminishing by the day”. He said that not securing employments could make them feel more attracted to extremist organisations such as the EDL.

Sir Michael spoke after the he opened a national debate with research that suggested talented children were underachieving at school. He said: “We've got to worry about those parts of the country where youngsters aren't achieving as well as they should, and therefore can't get jobs in the knowledge-based economy. And where those youngsters aren't getting jobs, then they will be attracted to organisations like the EDL, and we need to worry about that as a society.”

In the interview reported by the Guardian, he added that youngsters now need “more skills, more training and more qualifications than ever before.”

“There aren't the unskilled jobs out there in the way that there were when I started teaching. I was teaching the sons and daughters of dockers. The docks have gone, the shipbuilding yards have gone. The mines have gone.

A report conducted but Ofsted, looking at the progress of brighter pupils in state schools, found that two thirds of these students do not achieve top GCSE results when they enter secondary education. In response, Ofsted have proposed that each student is provided with a report card, which would inform the parent how their child is performing academically in comparison with other students from across the UK.

On Thursday, Sir Michael said that comprehensive schools have a more difficult job to do than privately funded schools, because they are non-selective and teach at both ends of the academic ability spectrum.

“Too many non-selective schools are failing to nurture scholastic excellence. While the best of these schools provide excellent opportunities, many of our most able students receive mediocre provision. Put simply, they are not doing well enough because their secondary schools fail to challenge and support them sufficiently from the beginning."

He advocated that independent schools should help deprived state establishments in poorer areas to narrow the gaps in performance between the richest and poorest schools.

Sir Michael was headteacher of Mossbourne Academy in Hackney, east London which replaced the failing Hackney Downs school. The school got ten pupils Oxbridge offers in its first year of A-levels.