The former chief inspector of schools, Chris Woodhead, has criticised education bosses in Bristol.
Mr Woodhead said the city's education bosses must do better
On Thursday, it was revealed the city's state-run schools had finished second from bottom in the latest government league tables.
Mr Woodhead suggested truancy levels in the city were "dreadful" and said the quality of teaching must improve.
"There is no point in refurbishing the schools if the quality of teaching and learning doesn't improve," he said.
League tables showed just one third of pupils in Bristol achieved at least five A* to C grades in 2004 - the second worst figures in the country.
'Voting with feet'
Mr Woodhead, himself a former Bristol teacher, said: "It's extremely depressing for any parent in Bristol.
"As for the solution, the answer lies in primary schools. We cannot have so many leaving primary school unable to read.
"It lies in improving discipline and in developing a curriculum that is more appropriate to children."
He said he could understand why many parents were opting for the private education system.
"Parents are voting with their feet because they just don't trust Bristol schools," he said.
"There are plenty of schools elsewhere that are serving the most disadvantaged pupils and yet they are doing better than Bristol.
"The solutions in theory are pretty straightforward. Why on earth isn't the council moving forward in a more purposeful way?"
Heather Tomlinson, director of education at Bristol City Council , said: "The standards are not acceptable for a city like Bristol but everyone has tried hard to do their best.
"But are we doing the things that make the most difference?"