Celebrating Britain's 101 Most Influential Asians 2024

© Asian Media Group - 2024


Katharine Birbalsingh


THE METHODS and actions of ‘Britain’s strictest headteacher’ often attract controversy. However, Katharine Birbalsingh, the founder and headteacher of Michaela Community School in Wembley, remains composed amidst it all. The former social mobility tsar is currently facing a High Court challenge from a Muslim student regarding the school’s ‘prayer ban’ in March last year. Birbalsingh says the ban was necessary to “maintain a successful learning environment where children of all races and religions can thrive.” She clarified that the ban was introduced after some pupils began praying in the playground amidst “violence, intimidation, and appalling racial harassment of some of our teachers.”

The latest incident underscores Birbalsingh’s determination to implement what she deems necessary for Michaela. Established in 2014, the north-west London school is renowned for its exceptional academic performance, stringent discipline code, and dynamic leadership. Michaela’s latest Progress 8 score, which shows how a child has progressed from the end of Year 6 to Year 11, placed them as the best school in the country for the second year running. Between 2021 and 2023, she served as the chair of the Social Mobility Commission, an independent statutory body.

The commission’s 2022 State of the Nation report showcased a new Social Mobility Index, a rigorous and systematic way to monitor mobility, comparing where people start and end, across a range of outcomes. Birbalsingh gained attention at the Tory par ty conference in 2010, where her speech about Britain’s “broken” education system stirred both applause and controversy, leading to her job loss. Born in 1973 in Auckland, New Zealand, to Frank Birbalsingh, an academic of Indo-Guyanese origin, and Norma, a Jamaican nurse, she comes from a family of educators. Her father and grandfather were both in the field. Birbalsingh spent most of her childhood in Toronto, with brief periods in Nigeria

To continue reading, please register

Already register? Login