EDUCATION Minister Michael Gove singled out East Durham during a national conference to say the area lacks ambition.
He used the event in London to say almost all pupils should be able to achieve five good grades at GCSE.
The Education Secretary said that while there will be some youngsters who cannot reach this standard due to disabilities and special needs, the numbers should be in “single figures”.
Mr Gove was speaking at an event in central London last night to mark the launch of a new book on under achievement in England’s schools.
The book, sponsored by the CentreForum think tank, says that there is a “tail” of under achievement, with one in five youngsters reaching these age of 16 without basic numeracy and literacy qualifications.
These pupils are gaining fewer than five D grades at GCSE, it said.
Mr Gove also argued that a culture of low expectations still exists in some communities.
“There is a real problem of ambition in certain traditional communities, like East Durham, which needs to change.
“It’s often not the parents, we know from the Millennium Cohort Study that something like 95 per cent of parents from working class homes want their child to have the chance to go to university.
“The aspiration is there.
“It is the case that there’s no choice, the local council has been one party for many years and when you go into those schools you can smell the sense of defeatism.”
He added that there needs to be “a challenge back to some communities and leaders in those communities to say what are they doing to challenge under-performance”.
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