Ofsted has launched its annual report of Education, Children's Services and Skills 2014/15 detailing evidence and findings on schools and the further education and skills sector.
The report - based on the outcomes of school inspections - highlighted a significant gap in the performance between primary and secondary institutions across England, which Ofsted's chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw described as "deeply troubling".
It revealed that in northern England and the Midlands, more than 40,000 youngsters are being taught in a secondary school that falls below Ofsted's "good" rating.
The report went on to highlight that fewer than 60 per cent of children in 16 poorly performing local authority areas attend good or outstanding secondary schools - many in satellite towns outside of cities such as Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield.
Ofsted officials outlined that there was no difference in the quality of primary schools or the achievement of the pupils in the north and south. Therefore, the difference at secondary level cannot be explained by issues of relative wealth or poverty.
Speaking in an interview on BBC Radio 4's Today show, Sir Wilshaw said that high-quality leadership and teaching is key to improving pupil performance. "If we can get good leaders into those schools, if we can get good teachers into those schools, if the culture of those schools improves, particularly if behaviour in those schools improves, then we will see better institutions."
What's more, the quality of apprenticeships remains a concern, with only five per cent of youngsters going on to complete one at the age of 16. Ofsted urges the government and employers to take action to help improve the quality of apprenticeships and ensure that expectations are kept high.
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