“We believe, whatever colour you are, whatever class you are, we are all British”
Ms Birbalsingh founded Michaela Community School, a free school, in 2014. Her traditional teaching methods, which include a focus on “small c conservative” values and discipline, have divided the educational community. Michael Community School, located in Wembley Park in north-west London, was rated as ‘outstanding’ in its last Ofsted inspection.
Almost half the school’s pupils speak English as a second language.
Speaking to Express.co.uk Ms Birbalsingh said: “We believe in Queen and country.
“Now people are going to say what, you sing God Save the Queen?
“You sing I vow to thee my country? You sing Jerusalem?
“We sing it all together in assembly. Everyday the children are coming in and we are singing.
“Now the reason for that is we believe in being British. We believe, whatever colour you are, whatever class you are, we are all British and we’re all one big family.”
Ms Birbalsingh first came to public attention by blogging about her experiences teaching in inner city London.
Katharine Birbalsingh is headteacher of Michael Community School
In 2010 she described the UK education system as “broken” during an address to the Conservative Party conference.
She argued a focus on patriotism is essential to building a feeling of belonging.
The headteacher commented: “I know how important it is for our children, especially children in the inner city, to feel like they belong.
“Because if they don’t feel British we are all in trouble, they won’t succeed, they’re in trouble, but we are all in trouble because you can’t have a country that succeeds when half the people don’t feel they’re part of the country.
“Everybody has to buy into British values and those values ought to be personal responsibility, duty, obligation and a belief in country.”
Following her speech to the Tory conference Ms Birbalsingh left her employment at a school in Camberwell, south London.
She went on to create a new free school which would implement her teaching philosophy.
“There are certain values that have almost completely disappeared from our society”
The school is based around traditional teacher led learning, with children being instructed in rows from the front of the class.
It also maintains a no-nonsense approach to discipline, with new pupils being required to attend a boot camp where they are taught the school’s standards.
Ms Birbalsingh explained: “It’s really important to remember all children.
“Advocates for reducing behaviour standards don’t think about all children, they’re thinking about that one child.
“The thing they don’t get is they’re letting that child down. In order to support children we need to keep our standards high.
Michael Community School was rated as ‘outstanding’ across all four assessed areas when it was last inspected by Ofsted, in 2017.
The school places a particularly strong focus on values.
“It’s really important to remember all children”
It’s headteacher asserted: “Ideas and values are far more important than money and that’s something that often people in the political classes don’t understand.
“There are certain values that have almost completely disappeared from our society.
“Values like the sense of personal responsibility, sense of duty towards others, a sense of obligation.
“These are small c conservative values that have sort of disappeared I think from our society and I blame all the political parties.”
The number of free schools in the UK has significantly increased in recent years, with Michael Gove campaigning aggressively in their favour as Education Secretary between 2010 and 2014.
Free schools are state funded, but largely independent of local authorities.
Ms Birbalsingh is deeply critical of much of the political class over education, particularly in inner city schools.
She commented: “The politicians don’t even know what I’m talking about.
Michael Gove promoted free schools as Education Secretary between 2010 and 2014
“They literally have no idea because they’re not talking to the people on the ground and that really annoys me.
“It really upsets me because those children need our help and we are only interested in helping ourselves and what I mean by that is in feeling good at dinner parties.
“For 50 or 60 years the education system has been slowly falling apart.
“That has had to do with progressive teaching methods taking over and a progressive way of thinking which is about valuing everybody in the classroom and their views as opposed to the teacher leading.”
Ms Birbalsingh is hoping to open a second free school in Stevenage.
Overall she regards herself as a reluctant revolutionary.
Referring to the educational establishment the headteacher said: “funnily enough they are so conservative that they refuse to question any of their hard held beliefs.
“I’m the radical, I’m the revolutionary, that’s what’s so funny.”
Published at Sat, 13 Apr 2019 05:23:00 +0000