Education policy in England is leading to the "cultural and intellectual impoverishment" of a generation of schoolchildren, a leading headmistress has warned.
The introduction of new-style courses - teaching children how to use English and mathematics in the work place - has been at the expense of academic rigour, said Bernice McCabe, head of the independent North London Collegiate School.
She said children's enjoyment of subjects at school had taken a back seat in recent years as ministers use education as a vehicle to boost their basic skills.
Mrs McCabe, whose school gained the best A-level results in the country in last year's Daily Telegraph league table, condemned the "woolliness" of the present system in which subjects were "relegated to the bottom of the pile".
And, if some educationalists have their way, such "middle class creations" may be abolished altogether!
The comments were made at an annual summer school for teachers - staged by a charity founded by the Prince of Wales.
The Prince's Teaching Institute was established in 2002 to encourage staff to rediscover their passion for subjects, such as English, history, geography and science.
Mrs McCabe, the course director, said it was "not always easy" for teachers to focus on academic subjects because of political interference.
It comes just days after it emerged that schoolchildren will be able to study travel brochures, magazines and biographies under a new-style "functional" GCSE. The course - an alternative to traditional English literature and English language - is designed to develop students' "understanding of language use in the real world".
But Mrs McCabe said: "By far the most serious consequence of this emphasis on functionality in education policy is that it may lead to the cultural and intellectual impoverishment of a generation of school children.
"Certainly one of the regular conclusions of our previous summer schools has been that pupils are encouraged by being challenged, that it is possible for them to enjoy 'difficult' and that problem-solving can be popular. By having high expectations and ensuring that all pupils, irrespective of their backgrounds, are taught the aspects of our subjects that we most value rather than those that are immediately accessible, we can raise standards.
"I believe strongly that academic standards are also improved by offering more ambitious and challenging lessons, rather than those that are merely 'relevant' and accessible."
Second, the (soon to be former) headmaster of Bexley Grammar School, Rod MacKinnon:
A leading headmaster who is leaving one of the most popular schools in the state system to work in the private sector has accused the Government of turning teachers into "social workers and surrogate parents".
Mr MacKinnon's full article is here. Both he and Mrs McCabe lead highly successful schools - when they discuss matters of education, it is fair to assume that they know whereof they speak. It would behove the government to listen well to what they say. But, of course, it won't.
Rod MacKinnon, the head of Bexley Grammar School, south-east London, said schools were being forced to shun traditional lessons as ministers manipulated the education system for the purposes of "social engineering".
He said schools "cannot solve all of society's ills" and should be left to teach.
His comments came just days after ministers published new guidance requiring schools to monitor obesity rates, drug taking and teenage pregnancy as part of a new duty to promote pupil "wellbeing".
According to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Bexley Grammar is the most sought-after school in England. Last year, 1,927 parents named it as their first choice – for just 192 spare places. It means the school rejected nine pupils for every one it admitted.