• Wednesday, March 29, 2023


‘I was doing more harm than good’, says Britain’s strictest headteacher Katharine Birbalsingh as she quits social mobility role 

Birbalsingh attracted controversy since became chair of Social Mobility Commission.

Katharine Birbalsingh at the GG2 Leadership and Diversity Awards.

By: Pramod Thomas

Britain’s strictest head teacher, Katharine Birbalsingh, has quit as the UK government’s social mobility head saying that her outspoken views meant she was ‘doing more harm than good’.

She said that her presence as chair of the Social Mobility Commission (SMC) undermined its impartiality, The Guardian reported.

The New Zealand-born teacher was appointed to the post in November 2021.

“I come with too much baggage to be as effective as I would like to be as chair. I have become increasingly aware of how my notoriety puts the SMC in jeopardy,” she wrote in a resignation letter to the women and equalities minister, Kemi Badenoch.

“I want to be able to speak publicly about what I think is right and not worry that I am bringing the SMC into disrepute. People regularly say to me, ‘You can’t say that as chair of the SMC!’. The role gags me and turns me into someone that I’m not. When I weigh it all up, I’m doing the SMC more harm than good.”

Following her resignation, Alun Francis, the principal of Oldham College, has been appointed to the post on an interim basis, the BBC reported. A permanent replacement will be announced later.

“Over this past year I have become increasingly aware that my propensity to voice opinions that are considered controversial puts the commission in jeopardy,” Birbalsingh wrote in Schools Week magazine.

She said: “Instead of going out there to bat for the team and celebrate our achievements, I am becoming a politician. And I can’t bear the idea of ever being a politician. It just isn’t who I am or a skillset I wish to develop.”

Birbalsingh added: “As headmistress at Michaela, my governors can decide whether or not they wish to employ me despite my outspoken nature. So I feel free to comment on society. But as chair of the commission, people feel I need to be impartial and it irks many that for many years I have been anything but. So in some people’s minds, I am not right for the job.

“Sadly, I have come to agree.”

Birbalsingh is the founder and head teacher of Michaela Community School, a free school established in 2014 in Wembley Park, London. The school has a ‘no excuses’ behaviour policy and has been rated ‘excellent’ by Ofsted inspectors in every category. The school also produces above average exam results.

She came under fire last April for saying girls are less likely to choose physics A-level because it involves “hard maths”.

In June, Birbalsingh attracted controversy when she advised people from poor backgrounds not to aim for Oxbridge but to take ‘smaller steps’.

Recently, she claimed that she received death threats after inviting Jordan Peterson, the controversial right-wing Canadian professor, to speak at her school.

She said that critics reported her for hate crime after inviting Peterson.

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.

Eastern Eye

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