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Katharine Birbalsingh

Discussion in 'Personal' started by Romoletto, Jul 24, 2020.

  1. Romoletto

    Romoletto Occasional commenter

    saw some commentary on another thread regarding this lady and thought this video might be worth a watch and discussion. For what’s its worth, whilst I can totally see why she isn’t liked by a fair few folks and I don’t like her tone and attitude, I actually found a number of things to agree with. She isn’t all that bad.
    install likes this.
  2. smoothnewt

    smoothnewt Star commenter

    That was an interesting watch. Thanks for posting.
    I agree with her fundamental points regarding teaching self-control and self-reliance as a basis for good learning. However, I do think that she tends to make sweeping, blanket statements and oversimplifies realities, e.g "lefties believe this and conservatives believe that", where the truth is more nuanced. And she talks as though she knows for a fact what goes on in schools across the country and how things are taught. I wouldn't argue with her perspective on her approach with her intake as I have not worked in such a multi-cultural environment. She clearly gets results.
    A friend of mine went on a visit to Michaela school in the academic year that has just ended. I've not yet had the chance to ask her in detail about what she saw and learned in detail, but she did comment that she would never consider working there herself or sending her children there. But then again she is not a parent fearful of the local gang culture and wanting desperately for the school to succeed in educating her child so that they have a decent chance in life.
    It was only last year that I discovered that Michaela school is named after an old friend from my PGCE days: Michaela Emanus. Michaela was a St Lucian girl with a big laugh and a great sense of fun. She died a few years back. I find it hard to square her personality with the severe regime of the school. And I wonder what Michaela would have made of it all.
    install and Romoletto like this.
  3. SparkMaths

    SparkMaths Occasional commenter

    I think that some students will thrive in a strict school, especially if they don't have boundaries at home. The results speak for themselves, they are doing really well at Michaela.

    Some are going to suffer in that environment and thrive in the opposite. I've heard of experimental schools in Northern Europe where students set their own curriculum, they also get great results.

    So I guess that having choice in which school you send your children to and knowing where their personality will thrive is really important.

    Personally I had too many boundaries at home and getting the same strictness at school meant that I didn't have a good time and my grades suffered. So Michaela perhaps wouldn't have been the best place for me.

    Some people are so ideologically motivated that they can't accept conservative values presented in a positive way, which is why Katherine Birbalsingh comes under constant attack.

    Ironically I think she's a bit ideological herself.
  4. Jude Fawley

    Jude Fawley Star commenter

    Something to do with kids. No, no interest. It's hardly existential worrying about kids.
    jarndyce likes this.
  5. coffeekid

    coffeekid Star commenter

    It could be my imagination because I was doing other stuff while listening, but did her accent markedly change from English to American during the interview?
    Jolly_Roger15 likes this.
  6. smoothnewt

    smoothnewt Star commenter

    The interviewer also noted that. Not surprising though, maybe, given that she grew up in NZ and then Canada - even though she states that she has lived here 30 years. I thought her accent was predominantly north American with a nod to southern English.
    coffeekid likes this.
  7. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

    Today's headline: School that only teaches easy-to-teach pupils, gets good results.

    In other news, dog bites man.
    ajrowing and Laphroig like this.
  8. florian gassmann

    florian gassmann Star commenter

    Its admissions criteria give first priority to kids with Special Educational Needs, and second priority to Looked After Children and previously Looked After Children.

    I hadn't heard before that these are "easy-to-teach" children.
  9. smoothnewt

    smoothnewt Star commenter

    Are you suggesting that, despite the admissions criteria to the school being in line with the norm, the school is oversubscribed by first-choice parents getting a place for their child, thus ensuring full compliance from the parents in supporting the school ethos? Just curious how you have come to this conclusion.
    install likes this.
  10. Doitforfree

    Doitforfree Star commenter

    She gets parents to sign an agreement that they will do all kinds of quite onerous things. Some parents just wouldn't. So she only gets families who are going to give their children a lot of support. I have a lot of time for some of her ideas but it would be naive to think that the store of school would automatically work with a random intake of children.
  11. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

    What would happen if every school did this?

    Where would those pupils that these schools cannot teach, go?
    ajrowing likes this.
  12. smoothnewt

    smoothnewt Star commenter

    But what I am asking is where is your evidence that this is happening? The school admissions policy is in line with that of LEA schools. On paper there is no selection, and Birbalsingh maintains that her pupils are from deprived families in the local community, not that they are cherry picked from the masses.
    install likes this.
  13. smoothnewt

    smoothnewt Star commenter

    The intake is small at 120 per year group, so given the popularity of the school it is likely that it is oversubscribed.
    Even then, and even with supportive parents, you cannot guarantee that every child there will naturally want to conform to the rules. What she appears to have done though, is to create a situation where the tipping point is in favour of the majority conforming, which then enables those less willing pupils to toe the line. I suppose it makes it easy to readily bring the outliers into line. She certainly appears to be a force of nature,
  14. smoothnewt

    smoothnewt Star commenter

    Her argument is that her pupils are taught self-discipline when they walk through the door in Year 7, in the event of their not having been taught this at home hitherto. They are taught to aim high. She argues against the excuses culture, where too many excuses are in place institutionally which prevent children from reaching their potential. There will always be children at the extreme end with severe behavioural issues who do need to be educated apart, but I can't help but think that she could well be right with her pull yourself up by your bootstraps approach for the majority of children, who need a good work ethic and self-belief to be instilled in them.
  15. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

    You are moving towards the reality now. The vast majority will. That's why they are there. There is a cultural aspect. Lots of South Asians / Africans etc. The harder to reach afrocaribbean and white working class boys though...

    In effect, all those who cannot adapt or cope with the "strictest school in Britain" are not there. No accommodations are made as other schools have to do. There are no magic solutions. What appears to be magic is always sleight of hand.

    Look at what happened in Great Yarmouth when the deputy tried it there. They lost a huge number of pupils, many with SEND, autism etc. No accommodations made. Success is much easier like that. But those children still need to be educated and it falls on the more inclusive schools in the area, with more skillful staff, to do the job. However, those schools then take the hit on results. And the "strict school" looks better. Nice, isn't it?
  16. FormosaRed

    FormosaRed Occasional commenter

    I find her ideas very refreshing. She's not right about everything but I do like her mantra of high expectations. I loved the "Tiger Teachers" book about Michaela and I hope to read their new one "The power of culture" over the Summer.
  17. Romoletto

    Romoletto Occasional commenter

    I’m quite familiar with the area the school is in and it would be near nigh impossible not to have pupils from the backgrounds you describe.

    I do agree that she sounds like she builds a very particularly authoritarian atmosphere in her school and not all pupils and families might subscribe to that, however I would question the linking of being that type of pupil/family to any ethnicity or community in the Wembley area. In my experience, being from one of those communities and having grown up within 5 miles of the place, the kind of schooling she described in the interview would be highly welcomed. The perceived lack of discipline in our schools is often one of the things first noticed and moaned about by most of my relatives when they first got to this country.

    I was raised with the ethos of adults are always right and a good education is in your own interest so do as your told regardless of the gripes you think you have, and so I know that my folks would have been more than happy with the school she described.

    Although whether this is a desirable state of affairs is a different discussion.
  18. Romoletto

    Romoletto Occasional commenter

    with regards to this part of your post, I do agree with what you describe of the burden faced by schools with high SEND, but I would disagree with two things that seem implied from what you say:

    1) that a highly regimented or authoritarian school would not be beneficial for kids with SEND and that it couldn’t be both inclusive and maintain its regimented or authoritarian nature.

    2) that the standing of those schools in league tables is something that is the fault of the schools who offload students. I would say that the nature of the league table and the incentives it creates are the issues not the schools.
  19. Ellakits

    Ellakits Lead commenter

    One argument against the ethos of private schools which I’ve heard from a large number of teachers, is that it isn’t right for the children in their schools. That disadvantaged children cannot be expected to comply in the same way as affluent kids.

    I don’t agree.

    If a family from a poor background suddenly won the lottery and sent the children to an independent school, would the children magically fit in? Would the behaviour problems they’d displayed in the state sector suddenly disappear?

    And if the opposite happened and a wealthy family lost all their money necessitating a move into the state sector, would the children automatically lose the self-discipline they’d shown before?

    It would be ridiculous to think so.

    Irrespective of family income, a child can be well-mannered and hard working or ill-mannered and lazy. The ethos of the family (and the school) determines the expected behaviour standard - not the bank balance.

    Michaela school states that it hopes to bring a private education to state school pupils. What’s wrong with that? Why shouldn’t financially disadvantaged children have the same educational opportunities as their wealthier peers?
    curias, agathamorse and install like this.
  20. install

    install Star commenter

    Exactly the point.

    I think there is an element of jealousy from her critics of her success tbh. They wrongly claim they know all about education today when they clearly don’t. I think her efforts will be recognised one day soon.

    She dared to raise standards, courageously states not enough was being done, and achieved great success where others previously had failed.

    Indeed for me it is her no nonsense approach that has paved the way for others to follow. Love The Tiger Teachers book too.
    curias, agathamorse and Ellakits like this.

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