In the past, schools were most worried about exam results and discipline while ministers debated whether to have uniforms or put desks in rows. Now the education system is on the front line in the culture wars. From sexting to transgender lavatories, bullying on social media, safe spaces and extremism, head teachers are picking their way through a minefield of social divisions. These days, Ofsted judges schools on their promotion of British values as well as their pupils' achievement at GCSE.
Amanda Spielman has just completed a year in the job as chief inspector of schools. In her first annual report, published this week, she raised serious concerns about the blatant flouting of equalities law in some faith schools. Ofsted inspectors found books in Islamic school libraries that endorsed domestic violence. Pupils are leaving these schools with no qualifications and unable to speak or write English. "Before I started the job various people said to me, 'I'm sure that social care is going to be the tough bit', and it became clear to me very quickly that this is in many ways the hardest thing we deal with," she says. "It's so extremely sensitive that it's very difficult to make it discussable without people in certain quarters just wanting to shout you down and shut down discussion."