The Government’s Social Mobility chief has sparked angry comments from parents after she urged them to give lessons to their children after school – saying you can’t ‘assume they are being taught well’ during the day.
Katharine Birbalsingh, 49, who is head of the school dubbed ‘the strictest in Britain’ and was made chairwoman of the Government’s Social Mobility Commission in October, told parents on Twitter they’re ‘getting lucky’ if their children are receiving an adequate education in UK schools.
After enduring two lockdowns and the pressures of homeschooling children while juggling full-time jobs, many parents are unlikely to enjoy the latest advice from a head known for her ‘tough love’ approach.
In a tweet on Monday, Ms Birbalsingh urged parents to teach children every day after school throughout their school years, saying: ‘Other parents do. They just aren’t telling you.’
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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
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.’
MailOnline has contacted NASUWT, the Teachers’ Union, and the National Education Union (NEU) for comment.
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!’’
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.
The Government’s Social Mobility chief, dubbed a ‘tiger head’ for her strict approach, wrote that many parents are already teaching their children at home but said ‘they just aren’t telling you’
@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.
‘Follow instructions and listen in silence’: Tough rules that have seen the Michaela School win OFSTED ‘outstanding’
- Follow instructions the first time they are given
- 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
- Michaela does not have a prayer room
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.