Two years after it became a legal requirement, citizenship is the worst taught secondary subject, David Bell said.
Teaching is unsatisfactory in a quarter of state schools, according to evidence from 2003-4 inspections to be published in his annual report next month.
In a number of high-performing schools, citizenship is the only subject judged to be unsatisfactory and teachers and heads are openly cynical about it.
Often lessons that schools tell inspectors are citizenship are actually personal, social and health education (PSHE), Mr Bell said. Inspectors found attempts to teach citizenship across the curriculum without timetabling any specific lessons have been largely unsuccessful. Mr Bell said many schools needed to think again about staffing, timetabling and resources for the subject. He said citizenship could empower pupils and was "vital to the future success of... British society".
A poll for the Office for Standards in Education found that more than half of 14 to 16-year-olds in state schools did not know what citizenship education was and could not give examples of what they had learned.
The survey of 110 teenagers found only one in four pupils could identify Labour as the party in power.
Almost half did not think it was important to know what the political parties stood for. Almost two-thirds of pupils and four out of five teachers saw themselves as British with a third of pupils identifying themselves as English.
Teacher magazine subject focus 22