Parents should give their children extra lessons after school ‘daily’ because they cannot ‘assume they are being taught well’ in the nation’s classrooms, the Government’s own social mobility tsar declared today.
Katharine Birbalsingh, 49, a successful headteacher of an inner London secondary, has set herself on a collision course with colleagues and unions by telling mothers and fathers they can’t trust schools to properly educate their child because they will be ‘lucky’ to get a brilliant teacher.
Ms Birbalsingh, the anti-woke founder of the notoriously uncompromising Michaela Community School in Wembley, north London, told her near 100,000 Twitter followers that because of the pandemic and successive lockdowns there ‘has never been a better time to teach your children at home’.
She wrote: ‘Parents! Don’t assume they are being taught well at school. You might get lucky. Great! But don’t assume it. Teach them after school. Daily. Always. Other parents do. They just aren’t telling you.
‘Schools, even the BEST schools, can only do so much Parents can do 1-1 instruction and can revisit before bedtime or provide different ‘instructors’ for the same thing. The power of the family is HUGE. Yet all we do is say, ‘schools should teach that!’,’ she added.
Despite her comments infuriating teachers, many parents tweeted their support, saying they ‘agree 100%’ with her views and advice. Some educators also admitted they agreed.
The straight-talking headteacher was made chairwoman of the Government’s Social Mobility Commission in October after repeatedly using her platform as Britain’s most high profile school leader to attack ‘woke culture’ damaging Britain and its education system. She won a CBE in 2020.
She has also talked repeatedly about the importance of family in education, and the need for traditional values such as eating with your children each night. And the super headteacher has said schools have been crippled by league tables, exams were dumbed down and that ‘well meaning liberal’ teachers refused to discipline black children for fear of being called racist.
MailOnline has contacted NASUWT, the Teachers’ Union, and the National Education Union (NEU) for comment.
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Katharine Birbalsingh, who founded the Michaela Community School in Wembley in 2014, which Ofsted has rated ‘Outstanding’, is known for her tough stance on discipline. This week, she told her followers on Twitter that parents should teach their children lessons ‘daily’ and ‘always’ at home after the school day ends
Katharine Birbalsingh, 49, a headteacher herself, has set herself on a collision course with colleagues and unions with this tweet
The headteacher also said schools can’t do it all, and families must put in the effor including eating together each night
Parents and even a teacher admit that the super headteacher is right and that lessons and activities out of school are required
How Britain’s ‘tiger headmistress’ was sacked for an attack on Britain’s failing education system before taking on her own school where students must ‘dress smartly’ and phones are BANNED
Katharine Birbalsingh won a standing ovation at the Conservative Party conference after she delivered a damning indictment of ‘utterly chaotic’ state schools in 2010.
But soon afterwards she was sent home from her school in Camberwell, South London, after her speech, and lost her job as a deputy head teacher at the inner city academy.
The former Marxist turned conservative was the surprise star of the Tory conference when she laid bare an education system in which children were ‘lost in a sea of bureaucracy’.
She said schools were crippled by league tables, exams were dumbed down and ‘well meaning liberal’ teachers refused to discipline black children for fear of being called racist.
The Oxford University graduate also admitted that she had voted Conservative for the first time after a decade working in state schools having supported Labour.
She was born in New Zealand, the elder of two daughters of Frank Birbalsingh, an academic, and his wife, Norma, a nurse.
After leaving Oxford she began working in inner city schools in South London. After her sacking in 2010 she wrote several books before becoming head of Michaela Community School in Wembley, having founded the school in 2014 with Suella Braverman, who is now a Tory MP.
She was voted in the top 20 most influential people in British education in 2017 and given a CBE for services to education in 2020.
In October 2021, she was appointed Chair of the Social Mobility Commission.
Last year she hit out at people ‘mercilessly attacking’ black British conservatives who ‘dare to think for themselves’. She also slammed teachers who keep telling students about ‘white privilege’, urging them to avoid talking about race to students and stick to ‘teaching them maths and English’.
She said; ‘Talking about white privilege all the time actually undermines black children because it tells them that the establishment is against them. We need to move away from these things because they’re divisive and unhelpful and be talking about what matters: How do we make all our schools excellent so that all children, whatever colour they are, can succeed in the classroom’.
The headteacher of Michaela Community School in Wembley, which Ofsted has rated ‘Outstanding’, told her 91,500 followers: ‘Parents! Never has there been a better time for you to teach your kids at home.
‘Don’t assume they are being taught well at school. You might get lucky. Great! But don’t assume it.’
She continued: ‘Teach them after school. Daily. Always. Other parents do. They just aren’t telling you.’
The head later added: ‘Schools, even the BEST schools, can only do so much Parents can do 1-1 instruction and can revisit before bedtime or provide different ‘instructors’ for the same thing. The power of the family is HUGE. Yet all we do is say, ‘schools should teach that!”
‘Follow instructions and listen in silence’: Tough rules demanded by Britain’s toughest head
Michaela Community School was established in September 2014 by Katharine Birbalsingh and Suella Braverman.
It is described as the ‘strictest school in Britain’ and achieved among the best GCSE results in the country.
Children are told to ‘Work hard’ and be kind’ but also have a strict set of rules they are punished for breaking. These include:
- Keep to correct uniform and wear it smartly, leaving electronic items, food, drink, gum, and anything else not needed for school, at home
- Speak at an appropriate volume
- Sit listening silently in the correct place, unless given permission otherwise
- School shoes should be black, flat and logo free. Trainers, boots, suede and logos are not allowed at school. Similarly, shoes that are considered to be trainer-like in appearance are not allowed. This ruling also applies to branded shoes.
- Hair will be in a conventional style. Hair styles that grow out instead of down, and therefore do not touch the collar, must look professional
- If a pupil attends school with a pattern shaved into their eyebrow, they will be banned from attending school until it grows back fully or the school will insist the entire eyebrow is shaved off
- Pupils in Year 7 to 11 must not wear any make-up whatsoever
- Nail varnish of any description, nail extensions and henna decorations are also forbidden
- No jewellery whatsoever except a plain and functional watch
While many agreed with Ms Birbalsingh’s comments, others questioned when children ‘can be children’ if they’re expected to continue studying at home.
Teacher @jennie_priest responded, saying: ‘What?! No they don’t! I am a teacher and I don’t teach my children at home. We don’t have time…we have piano lessons, rugby training etc. We talk together, we have fun, we watch TV, we eat together….but I certainly don’t formally teach them.’
Others were alarmed by Ms Birbalsingh’s apparent low opinion of the UK education system. @Alienwife99 wrote: ‘You might get lucky’. Is that your opinion of the teaching profession? That children are ‘lucky’ if they get a good teacher. Who is that going to help?’
Many parents admitted they did teach their children when they’d got home from school.
@AlexShrop wrote: ‘Couldn’t agree more. My kids never stop learning because my wife and I have brought them up by reflecting on our own childhood, not repeating mistakes observed and learning new things as we go.
‘Trick is to instil clear morals, boundaries and structure and be consistent.’
Another teacher, @MrsHRCrowther, said her own young daughter would be ‘lost’ without a timetable of work set at home.
She wrote: ‘I’m a teacher and I have a homework timetable for my Y3 little girl she needs consolidation in Reading, maths etc. We also do Brownies, swimming, piano, telly etc. I really feel like if I didn’t do what I do, she’d feel even more lost at school. Feel like I owe it her.’
Ms Birbalsingh also said eating dinner together was vital to a child’s development, saying: ‘Too many families don’t do this. Just eating dinner together and parents talking to their children makes such a difference to the development of a child.
‘Schools can try to make up for it (we do family lunch), but there is only so much a school can do.’
The head has earned a reputation for her no-nonsense approach to discipline at the Wembley school she co-founded nearly eight years ago.
Children at the Michaela Community School in Brent, North London, are taught in Year 7 pupils how to sit properly on a chair.
New students at the school, which Birbalsingh set up in 2014, are also shown how to walk to lessons quickly in single file and how to concentrate on the teacher – to instil good behaviour as soon as they arrive.
Ms Birbalsingh has been praised by Minister for Women & Equalities Liz Truss for maintaining ‘high standards’.
When the head was made chairwoman of the Government’s Social Mobility Commission, she said she would use her new position to develop a society that ‘provides an equal chance for all’.
She told GB News at the time of her appointment in October: ‘The chair of the Social Mobility Commission is meant to help the Government to enable it so that everyone has an opportunity to be able to do whatever they want to do with their lives.
‘I’m particularly interested in family, school and roots into the workplace, although obviously I’ll be interested in building a body of evidence and listening to other people’s ideas in terms of what we ought to concentrate on.
‘But those three for me – family, school and roots into the workplace – I think are key when trying to enable social mobility
‘Doing that means making it so that the accident of your birth does not mean that you are unable to pursue whatever it is you want to do with your life.’
In 2010, Ms Birbalsingh told delegates at a Tory party conference that educational standards have been ‘so dumbed down that even the teachers know it’ and that schools are bound by too many targets that prevent them from teaching properly.
She credits her father, who received an ‘old-fashioned British education in British Guyana’, with her success.
She has since spoken out against schools teaching about ‘white privilege’, saying it gives black British children the impression that the education system and society is pitted against them.
In June, she said teachers should avoid talking about race to students and stick to ‘teaching them maths and English’.
Ms Birbalsingh said the secret to success for a child of ‘any colour’ is to have a family that supports their education, makes them do their homework and will force them ‘off their phones’.
Earlier this year, Ms Birbalsingh also took a swipe at at ‘woke culture’ for ‘mercilessly attacking’ black conservatives who ‘dare to think for themselves’.
Taking aim at those behind the abuse of race report chairman Tony Sewell, Ms Birbalsingh accused ‘leftists’ of driving their own ‘cultural racism’ by attempting to shut down opposing views.
Teachers were much less happy with her comments, saying they and parents ‘don’t have time’ to do more at home