OFSTED has identified Darlington as one of three areas in England with the highest proportion of ‘stuck’ schools that haven’t improved since 2006.

In its latest report ‘In Fight or flight? How ‘stuck’ schools are overcoming isolation’, Ofsted defines stuck schools as those that have not been judged good or better since September 2006, and have had at least four full inspections during that time.

Currently, 415 schools fall into that definition, with Darlington highlighted by Ofsted alongside Derby and Southend-on-Sea as having the highest proportion.

Although Ofsted is not revealing the names of the schools, it says that they are typically in deprived areas, where there might have been a decline in traditional industry and a lack of cultural opportunities.

The report found many stuck schools reported low levels of literacy and employment among parents and that some children are reportedly sent to school hungry.

During the course of the report, Ofsted spoke to staff at a stuck school who described it as being a ‘dumping ground’ for children with serious behavioural or safeguarding issues.

Since 2010, many publicly-funded schools moved out of the control of local councils and into the control of charitable trusts and Darlington councillor Cyndi Hughes, who sits on the children and young people scrutiny committee panel, said solutions need to be found to help stuck schools move forwards.

She said: "I am deeply saddened by this, not at Ofsted, but at the fact that we are not offering the best education and the best life chances to our young people; that saddens me greatly and really it needs be addressed with joined-up thinking.

"It can't just be the responsibility of the schools, it has to be a concerted effort that is funded by central government."

Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman said: "Our inspectors have found that the majority of schools in challenging areas are providing children with a good education that sets them up to succeed in later life.

“What the remaining stuck schools need is tailored, specific and pragmatic advice that suits their circumstances – not a carousel of consultants.

"They are asking Ofsted to do more to help, and we agree.”

However, the National Education Union (NEU), criticised the report, describing Ofsted as part of the problem.

Dr Mary Bousted, joint NEU general secretary, said: “Ofsted identifies the problem of ‘stuck’ schools but persistently and resolutely fails to recognise its own role in creating the problem.

“Schools in deprived circumstances are much more likely to find it hard to get out of the Ofsted category than schools in leafy suburbs.

“Fear of Ofsted is a key factor in school leader and teacher flight from these schools. Far from being a force for educational improvement in the areas that need it most, Ofsted is unfortunately part of the problem, not the solution.”