Ofsted chairman David Hoare went “over the top” when he called the Isle of Wight a “ghetto” but should not resign, Sir Michael Wilshaw says.
Ofsted’s chief inspector of schools told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme Mr Hoare had been “a good chair”.
Mr Hoare has apologised for his comments about the island, in which he also said “there has been inbreeding”.
He said he had been trying to highlight the unacceptably poor performance of schools on the island over many years.
His comments, made at a recent teaching conference and highlighted in the Times Educational Supplement, prompted a call for him to resign. He has apologised for any upset or offence he may have caused.
Sir Michael said: “He’s handled the board well and he’s passionate about raising standards.
“On this occasion he used inappropriate language and he’s apologised profusely for that because he’s offended people in the Isle of Wight, and he should have done that.”
Sir Michael added that while Mr Hoare’s words had been “inappropriate”, he was raising an important issue.
“He has drawn everyone’s attention to the problems of areas like the Isle of Wight and coastal resorts. We undertook a focused inspection of the Isle of Wight four years ago and found standards to be terribly, pitifully low.
“The reason why London and other big cities are doing well is because they’ve got good heads and they’ve got good teachers and people are attracted to those areas.
“It’s much more difficult to attract staff to areas which are less popular and where the challenges are that much greater.”
Mr Hoare, who has a home on the mainland near the island, said education on the Isle of Wight was often a topic of conversation with his dinner party guests.
“They think of it as holiday land. But it is shocking,” he said. “It’s a ghetto; there has been inbreeding.
“Seven state schools were all less than good. There is a mass of crime, drug problems, huge unemployment.”
Ofsted said the chairman had been expressing his personal views and they did not reflect those of the inspectorate or its chief inspector.
But Isle of Wight council leader Jonathan Bacon said he would contact Education Secretary Justine Greening to seek an explanation from Mr Hoare for his 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.”
And Ms Lowthion, who is a teacher on the island, 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.
“It is well-known that coastal towns need investment and support to improve education standards and participation.
“He has insulted residents of coastal towns across the country and should resign.”
Following the outcry, Mr Hoare 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 my comments were made in this context.”