Many children feel stifled by "dour" school programs which seem to curb their sense of creativity and leave them bored, a former senior civil servant revealed.
Sir Michael Bichard said in a speech that the lessons fail to fire the children's imaginations, leaving many talented pupils sighing with boredom, and also the decline in art, music, dance and drama is not helping.
He says the arts are being relegated to little more than "add-ons" to the education system rather than a central component of the school day.
Bichard, former permanent secretary at the Department for Education, and chairman of the 2004 Soham inquiry, insists that the failure to develop pupils' creativity is fuelling an increase in young people without a job or college place.
Last year, it was disclosed that the number of 16- to 24-year-olds branded as "Neet" - not in education, employment or training - had topped one million for the first time.
Bichard also criticised the lack of high-quality vocational qualifications.
"Too often our education system does educate people out of their creativity and that is partly because the arts - by which I mean, art, music, dance and drama - are too often still at the bottom of the list; the 'nice to have', the 'add-ons' to our system rather than central components of a rounded education," the Telegraph quoted his speech to the North of England Education conference in York.
"And that's one of the reasons why some talented children spend the day in sighing and dismay. But, you know, it doesn't have to be like that.
"School life will not always be easy or enjoyable but have our secondary schools in particular become too dour? Of course, there are joyous exceptions. But are there enough? I suspect most of us would say 'no'," it stated.
Bichard, now executive director of the Institute for Government, an independent think-tank, and former vice-chancellor of the University of the Arts, London, says an "obsession" with purely academic subjects in school turns hundreds of thousands of pupils off education.
He says this remains one of the main reasons why the UK has the fifth highest dropout rate among 16-year-olds in the developed world.