Brent headteacher dubbed strictest in Britain

Katharine Birbalsingh CBE, head teacher of Michaela Community School. Picture: Claudia Rose Carter

Katharine Birbalsingh CBE, head teacher of Michaela Community School. Picture: Claudia Rose Carter - Credit: Claudia Rose Carter

A teacher dubbed “the strictest head mistress in Britain” has spoken of how her school turns “rude, surly” children into top university candidates. 

Katharine Birbalsingh, the headteacher of Michaela Community School in Wembley, said its disciplined approach to teaching is the key to achieving academic success. 

This includes a boot camp where kids are taught to keep their shirts tucked in, The Times reported, pick up crumbs after eating and learn how to “behave in the Michaela way”. 

The school also has a strict detention programme, with students told off for things such as lateness, not having the correct equipment and breaking uniform rules. 

Ms Birbalsingh said this ultimately turns “rude, surly and miserable” kids arriving in Year 7 into more “well rounded” individuals when they leave.  

Speaking to The Times, she said: “It’s hard to believe when you meet them now, but I promise you we teach them to be like this.” 

Ms Birbalsingh, who chairs the Department for Education’s social mobility commission, has also spoken of the importance of precise timetabling, including scheduled toilet breaks. 

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She said it ensures pupils are maximising their time learning and are less tempted to break rules.

She said: “It means children move [classes] in a minute and a half; no disruption. You’re not following up on fights in the corridors or kids turning up late”. 

Ms Birbalsingh has been accused of running an “oppressive” regime at Michaela, which her critics argue can be harmful to children. 

Despite this, the school regularly achieves excellent exam results.

In 2021, it said 82 per cent of its pupils preparing for further education were accepted by Russell Group universities, while two secured places at Cambridge. 

Ms Birbalsingh has also come under fire over some of her comments around pupils from inner-city areas. 

Earlier this year, in an interview with radio station LBC, she suggested kids from these areas could end up carrying knives if their schools do not have strict policies on uniform. 

Michaela Community School has been contacted for comment.