A lack of political will is holding back improvement in schools in the worst performing areas of the country, the head of Ofsted will suggest today.
Sir Michael Wilshaw will describe the high concentration of underperforming secondary schools in the north of England and Midlands as "deeply troubling".
Children in these two areas are much less likely to attend a good or outstanding secondary school than their counterparts in the South, with well over 400,000 children in the North and Midlands going to a secondary school that is less than good.
Launching his fourth annual Ofsted report, Sir Michael will argue that the divide cannot simply be explained away by the higher levels of economic deprivation in the North and Midlands, pointing out there is no difference in the quality of primary schools across the country or in the achievement of seven-year-olds and 11-year-olds at Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2.
While more children are attending good or outstanding schools than ever before, that improvement is largely down to improvements in primary schools, and the overall performance of England's secondary schools continues to lag behind that of primaries.
He will say there is now an urgent need for the same type of collective action by local politicians, MPs, chief executives and headteachers that was seen in London in the late 1990s to raise secondary school standards in towns across the North and Midlands.
Today's report will highlight 16 local authority areas in England where fewer than 60% of the children attend good or outstanding secondary schools, and make less than average progress and achieve lower than average grades at GCSE. All but three of these are in the North and Midlands, and many of them are satellite towns of major cities.
Sir Michael will say that if cities like Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield are to be the engine rooms of a Northern Powerhouse, they need to work with the towns on their borders to raise attainment and close skills gaps across a wider area.
The chief inspector of schools will also say that action is needed to address the capacity issues facing England's education system, including a shortage of high-quality secondary school leaders, especially in the North and Midlands.
The report will identify teacher recruitment as a very real problem across the country, with continued shortages in key subjects like science, technology and maths made worse by the number of newly-qualified teachers leaving to teach abroad or in the independent sector.
Speaking at an event in central London to mark the launch of the report, Sir Michael will say that action is needed at a national level to tackle this issue, including financial incentives to get trainees to start their career in the areas and schools that need them most, and thought given to a form of "golden handcuffs" to encourage teachers to keep on working in the state system that trained them.
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said: "The landscape of English education has been transformed over the past five years through raising both standards and expectations.
"Thanks to the hard work of teachers across the country and our ambitious programme of reforms, there are now record numbers of pupils being taught in good or outstanding schools.
"This progress should not be ignored, but like Sir Michael Wilshaw we believe more needs to be done to deliver educational excellence everywhere and tackle pockets of underperformance, so that we can extend opportunity to every single child.
"That's why we are introducing new measures to transform failing and coasting schools, funding the best academy chains to share excellence in struggling regions in the North and creating a National Teaching Service - sending some of our best teachers to the areas that need them most."