A national outcry would erupt if the failure rate of schools matched that of further education colleges, David Bell, chief inspector, told The TES this week.
He described the 11 per cent of colleges failing inspection as a "national disgrace". He said: "What we are talking about is students who are not getting a decent deal."
He told FE Focus he was "very, very disappointed" that 11 colleges of the 94 inspected were judged to be inadequate during the last academic year, three more than the year before.
Last year was the third year that the Office for Standards in Education has been involved in the inspection of colleges, together with the Adult Learning Inspectorate, taking over the role from the Further Education Funding Council.
Mr Bell said that he had expected a year-on-year reduction in the failure rate as college principals "learn the lesson" as the programme goes through. "We have not seen that happen in this round of inspections. The failure rate has increased slightly to about 11 per cent. It remains a stubborn statistic that is a disgrace. It is very, very disappointing," he said.
Statistics from last year's inspections reveal a marked difference in the performance of sixth form colleges and FE colleges.
Of the 70 FE colleges inspected, 11 were rated inadequate and five were rated outstanding.
Of the 24 sixth-form colleges inspected, none was rated inadequate and eight were rated outstanding.
Approximately 5 per cent of schools are judged to be unsatisfactory or poor.
Mr Bell said: "The message that comes back to me is that FE colleges are more complex than sixth-form colleges, but that doesn't mean to say that they cannot do well. What we would identify as characterising good colleges is that they have a clear sense of mission. They know where their strengths lie. The quality of leadership and management is so important."
He rounded on colleges that used the excuses of "widening participation" and "complex nature of provision" as reasons for their inadequacy.
He said: "Where I have little patience is when colleges spout rhetoric about widening participation and inclusion when that is all it is - rhetoric."
Mr Bell also noted that all but one of the 11 inadequate FE colleges were south of Birmingham.
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