Chris Woodhead, in an interview for the BBC Panorama programme, calls for the "burial" of teaching methods devised in the Sixties, which emphasise individual discovery, and a doubling of whole-class teaching.
As further evidence of the damage being done, he will point to a study commissioned by the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted), which will show how maths and science standards have slipped behind Britain's competitors.
The study, by Professor David Reynolds of Newcastle University, comes on top of worrying evidence about poor literacy in primary schools. Labour has joined the Government in calling for a return to "traditional" methods of teaching as one of the keys to raising achievement.
In today's interview, Mr Woodhead calls for the "burial of a concept of primary education that says ... the innate potential of each child has [merely] to be unlocked".
He calls for more direct, whole-class instruction - which he says accounts for only a quarter of teaching in English primary schools. The proportion, he says, should be nearer 60 per cent. Professor Reynolds' study is expected to point to poor overall performance in maths in English schools, compared to countries like Taiwan, where whole-class teaching is the norm. English school teachers, Mr Woodhead says, must draw the obvious lessons. "I am saying to every primary teacher in the country they must look long and hard at that evidence and come to the professional conclusions that they personally feel are right for their children."
He acknowledges that increasing pressure on primary schools has potential danger, but says the dangers of continuing with low expectations of children's potential are far greater.Reuse content