The FE sector is “inadequate at best” according to Ofsted’s Sir Michael Wilshaw, who has also hit out at colleges’ “uniformly weak” careers advice on offer.

He is due to make the comments in a speech later this afternoon, called ‘Ambitions for English Education’, for the thinktank CentreForum.

“Educational provision, for the many children who do not succeed at 16 or who would prefer an alternative to higher education, is inadequate at best and non-existent at worst,” Sir Michael is expected to say.

Responding to achievement targets for 16-year-olds, set out by CentreForum in its annual report, published Friday (January 15), he is due to say: “But what of the quarter to a third of youngsters who cannot achieve those challenging targets? What is to become of them?

“Even when I was head at Mossbourne Academy in Hackney, which had a great academic reputation, 20 per cent of youngsters failed to reach our targets.

“Most of them went to a local FE college, usually a large, impersonal and amorphous institution, and did badly.”

Sir Michael is also expected to criticise the standard of careers advice on offer at schools and colleges.

“Preparation for employment remains poor and careers guidance in both schools and colleges is uniformly weak,” he is expected to say.

He adds: “No area of the country, however, can really claim to succeed when it comes to provision for those youngsters who do not do well at 16.

“Nor can we say that we are really delivering high-quality vocational education to youngsters of all abilities who would prefer to take this route.

“The statistics show that those who fail to achieve the required grades in maths and English at 16 make little or no progress in FE colleges two years later.

“The 16-19 Study Programme is yet to make an impact on these success rates.”

Sir Michael is also expected to outline his vision for what he called “federations” of schools, which would include university technical colleges “that would admit youngsters across the ability range to focus on apprenticeships at levels 4, 3 and 2”.

“It would not be a dumping ground for the disaffected and cater just for the lower-ability youngsters.”