Pupils failed by 'shameful' education system, CBI leader warns01 January 2010
Mr Lambert said that despite the Government pumping millions of pounds into education, its constant "messing around" had left a generation of pupils without the relevant skills to succeed in business.
He sympathised with head teachers who he claimed have had to grapple with a "kaleidoscope" of "very complicated" changes to the education system in recent years.
As a result, youngsters' education has suffered, meaning that Britain is now lumbered with one of the highest proportions of Neets (people not in employment, education or training) in the world, he warned.
Children from poor backgrounds are being particularly failed, Mr Lambert said.
In an interview with The Guardian, Mr Lambert said: "If you look at all the data you see as a country we spend a lot on educating kids, but the outcomes aren't great.
"There's a very long tail of under-performance. I think this is more than an educational issue, it's a social and cultural issue as well.
"Part of the story is the correlation between deprivation and poor academic outcomes, which are more marked in this country than we ought to be able to contemplate. We ought to be ashamed of the numbers."
Earlier this month a breakdown of GCSE results suggested Britain has enjoyed sustained improvements over the past three years.
However, figures released by the Tories last month disclosed that just one-in-10 children in the most deprived communities leaves school with good GCSEs.
A study by Reform, the think tank, also warned that pupils in England are lagging behind those from other countries after being failed by an "intellectually deficient'' education system.
Mr Lambert said he believes that the problems are rooted in a "culture of low aspiration" that has pervaded over the past five decades.
He said he felt compelled to raise his concerns because employers are struggling to recruit people with the right skills, despite greater competition for jobs amid the recession.
Some employers have been forced to provide remedial classes to bring staff up to speed in the 3Rs, he said.
Mr Lambert added: "The OECD ((Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) figures show we have more drunkenness in students than any other country in the OECD.
"We have the fourth highest cohort of Neets after Turkey, Italy and Mexico, that can't be something we can be proud of.
"I would be critical of the government in the way that policy has seemed like a bit of a kaleidoscope. There are lots of initiatives, quite complex initiatives like the diplomas programme. Very, very complicated.
"I would hate to be a head teacher having to handle diplomas and GCSEs and A-levels and not quite knowing the extent to which they are going to be sustained or not sustained. I do think there has been a lot of messing around."
Ed Balls, the schools secretary, denied the claims saying that English schools were now performing well compared with those in other developed countries, in maths and sciences.
He said: "We have seen unprecedented steady and consistent improvement at all ages in the last 12 years after decades of stagnation.
"Yes, this has cost money but the entire school estate needed redeveloping to replace the tens of thousands of temporary classrooms with new, modern learning environments; teachers needed fair pay rises following years of low salaries and teacher shortages; and class sizes were too big for proper learning.
"I understand producer concerns about initiatives. But public sector reform is vital to ensure every school is a good school, every child is supported to learn and businesses get the skills they need."