Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mayor Boris on Katharine Birbalsingh: ‘Reinstate her!’

After the media furore following Katharine’s Birbalsingh’s ‘suspension’ last week for delivering a speech to the Conservative Party conference, the Southwark Diocesan Board of Education issued a statement to the media which was not only a highly public and humiliating rebuke of Ms Birbalsingh, but it included this assurance:

Miss Birbalsingh was asked to work at home on Thursday and Friday and will return to work next week.
‘Will’ is quite definite: it is a future expectation of ability or capacity.

It implied at least that a conversation had taken place and agreement struck between Ms Birbalsingh and Dr Irene Bishop to permit Ms Birbalsingh to return to work at the St Michael and All Angels Academy.

As far as the media are concerned, she did indeed return to work on Monday of this week.

Even the Facebook campaign has ceased and the page is closed.

The curious thing is, when one phones the Academy and asks to speak to Ms Birbalsingh, she is ‘not available’.

Presumably the Southwark Diocesan Board of Education, being a wholesome body operating under the aegis of the Church of England, is populated with truth-telling Christians.

When they issue a statement, it must be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Notwithstanding that in their public rebuke of Ms Birbalsingh last week in which they criticised her for using children’s photographs, they inadvertently omitted to mention that she had secured not only the permissions of all the parents, but also of the Academy’s full-time ‘on-the-ground’ Headteacher who operates beneath the part-time ‘flying’ Executive Headteacher.

Yet it was the part-time ‘flying’ Executive Headteacher who was so angered and ordered Ms Birbalsingh to ‘work from home’.

It must be difficult being a remote deputy headteacher. Is Ms Birbalsingh expected to deliver lessons via Skype and issue detentions by email?

How does she collect exercise books to mark?

Having said that, Dr Bishop appears to manage quite well being a completely remote Executive Headteacher.

Or perhaps she doesn’t.

And this epistemological gap is the primary cause of Ms Birbalsingh’s apparent continuing ‘suspension’, because the part-time Executive Headteacher’s right hand appears to have very little knowledge of what the full-time Headteacher’s left hand is doing.

Or saying.

Mayor Boris to the rescue:

…the most important voice in the great university debate belongs this week not to Lord Browne or any of the politicians – but to Katharine Birbalsingh, the deputy head of a south London school. She has now become the latest great martyr to what I can only call political correctness. She was sent home from her school after having the effrontery to suggest that Lefty thinking in education was inhibiting discipline, standards and competition. But isn't she right?

Isn't she right to point to the central importance of discipline and the authority of teachers in driving up educational standards? She strikes me as being a principled person who has reached the end of her tether, and I welcome the move to reinstate her.
The ‘move’ was polite and fairly low-key.

A movement will be neither.

If Dr Irene Bishop and the Academy’s governors and sponsors wish to avoid this manifestly political persecution escalating into a rather more aggressive and high-profile campaign for vindication, His Grace humbly suggests that they fully embrace Ms Birbalsingh’s manifest talents, however irritating they might find her mouth, and thank God that she has come to redeem their failing school.


Anonymous Caedmon's Cat said...

My message to the Church Of England (of which my master is an active communicant member) is: beware of the leaven of so-called 'Common Purpose'. There are few areas of public life that it hasn't already contaminated with its vileness. This battle is nowhere near over, and the war has yet to get started. I'm off to kill some mice..

13 October 2010 at 09:34  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Your Grace

Here is a selection of quotes and observations from the ‘suspended’ teacher.

Many teachers were “blinded by leftist ideology” and refused to admit they were failing children.

“We have a situation where standards have been so dumbed down that even the children know it.

“When I give them past exam papers to do from 1998, they groan and beg for a 2005 or 6 paper, because they know it’ll be easier.

“The idea of benchmarking children and letting them know how they compare to their peers is considered so poisonous by us teachers that we don’t ever do it, and children live in darkness, without any idea of how they compare to those around them, let alone to those who are educated in the private sector.”

“Exclusion quotas bind our headteachers, league tables have all of us pursuing targets and grades instead of teaching properly, and the ordinary child… is lost in a sea of bureaucracy handed down from the well meaning, politicians from up above,” she said. “Kids themselves cry out for structure and discipline.”

Miss Birbalsingh says she has watched in silent horror, over more than a decade in teaching, as good teachers were ordered to follow bad rules, schools colluded with the folly of inspectors to win coveted ratings and classrooms were allowed to deteriorate into war zones.

"I have always in difficult circumstances tried to do the right thing. I believe that I am doing something that needs to be done, not just for my pupils but for the whole of education in Britain,"

"Teachers are too scared to speak out because they think they are going to lose their job. And indeed, I gave a five minute speech and said a few home truths, and that has resulted in me being sent home from work.

"People need to know that the system is not transparent and teachers cannot speak out."

1. Lack of discipline is rife, she says, because staff fear being labelled racist if they attempt to tackle bad behaviour by black pupils.
2. Britain's state education system is an "international disgrace" which is incapable of reaching the "absurdly low" target of pupils achieving five grade Cs at GCSE.
3. Mixed ability teaching, where bright students are taught alongside the less able, is "insane" because it means no pupils can receive the teaching they require.
4. Ofsted's inspection criteria are so skewed and prescriptive, they can lead to great and inspirational teachers being labelled as underperforming.

The fashion for "group teaching" in some schools prevents teachers setting out classroom desks in traditional rows, forcing them to be arranged in groups so pupils can work in pairs or teams.

"If you did not have chaos in our classrooms then everyone could get five Cs at GCSE. But instead we say 'It's not their fault – they come from a council estate, they're from a single parent family,' or 'They're black.'

"This idea that because you are poor you cannot achieve is ridiculous."

"I feel torn between the loyalty that I have to my school and the loyalty that I have to children in general," she says.

"Teaching is the most intellectually stimulating thing that I've ever done. There is no other job that is as difficult or interesting.

"But British education is not just broken it is fundamentally broken.”

"I hope the public will read about this, remember it and insist on change. Because we are in desperate need for change."

13 October 2010 at 09:58  
Blogger Unsworth said...

Your Grace,

Perhaps one ought to exercise caution as to the reasons for Ms Birbalsingh's absence from the school. It is just conceivable that she has chosen not to return - for a whole gamut of reasons. So maybe we should ask how and why this is so. That said, I'd be very interested to see any statement from the school, the Governors or the Diocesan Board as to exactly what their position actually is.

If Ms Birbalsingh was wrongly asked to 'work at home', apologies and recompense should be offered, together with assurances as to her continuing appointment and status within the school community. If the Head Teacher's actions are/were justifiable, the Governing Body should know the reasons (and thence the Diocesan Board and, possibly, the public). Naturally there may be confidences which should not be revealed, but in this case actions will (and do) certainly speak louder than words.

It will be very difficult for all parties. The Head and the Diocesan Board will have to retract, the Governors will have to be reassured that the school is in capable hands (and that their Chair is doing his job properly), Miss Birbalsingh will be faced with returning to work in personally difficult and daunting circumstances.

Were this my school (mercifully it is not) I would be advocating that the Head Teacher and Ms Birbalsingh should meet privately to make their mutual apologies and to (re?)establish a decent relationship. The Governors should then issue a public statement welcoming the resolution of the difficulties and looking forward to mutual contributions to the benefit and well-being of the students etc etc. And the Diocesan Board should quietly slink away and learn the many lessons of this debacle.

Is this likely to happen? Well it depends on how entrenched attitudes are, and how stupid some of the parties may be.

In the meantime, what of the school, its reputation and its pupils?

13 October 2010 at 10:15  
Anonymous Martin said...

Indeed, Sir. I fully agree with your points on this matter.

Perhaps this Bishop should be removed from the board?

13 October 2010 at 10:42  
Blogger Johnny Rottenborough said...

You wait your whole life for a blog containing the name ‘Birbalsingh’ and then, suddenly, you can’t move for them.

13 October 2010 at 11:36  
Blogger David said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

13 October 2010 at 11:47  
Blogger Mark said...

As far as I understand it, it's Irene Bishop that's turned the school round - and in just a few months. Earlier in the year, under the previous headteacher, there were huge problems - now it's much, much better. There is a culture of discipline, and respect, among the students. It would be a pity if this was threatened by lots of bad press.

13 October 2010 at 11:59  
Blogger D. Singh said...

30 April 2010

Dear Students

Inspection of St Michael and All Angels CofE Academy, London, SE5 0UB

Thank you very much for talking to inspectors so openly and enthusiastically when we came to inspect your academy. Your views strongly influenced the judgement we made that, although the academy has some good aspects, it requires significant improvement to behaviour and courses in the sixth form. As a result, the academy has been given a notice to improve. This means inspectors will return to see how much progress has been made in improving these two aspects.

Most of you told us that you feel safe in the academy and enjoy many of the lessons and the wide range of clubs and activities. Some of you, for example students in the Golden Group, told us how much you valued what the academy did to support you. You told us that most of your teachers are friendly, approachable and care about you. We could see that most of you are beginning to learn more.

We found that you do not consistently show respect for each other and teachers. Sometimes in lessons the behaviour of a few of you means that not everyone can learn as much as they should. Those of you in the sixth form told us that it is improving but the range of the courses that you can choose is too limited. Therefore when inspectors come back next year to check progress in these two areas they will look particularly for:

 evidence that you, your parents, teachers and the local community are confident that incidents of poor behaviour are rare and do not stop you from learning as much as you should
 courses in the sixth form give you a wider choice that reflects your interests and your needs.

Clearly you have to work with your teachers to improve your behaviour by turning up to lessons on time, with the right equipment and the willingness to learn. You also need to show more respect for each other and staff around the academy. Many of you do these things already but not enough of you do them consistently.

Yours sincerely

Michael Lynes

Her Majesty's Inspector

13 October 2010 at 12:16  
Blogger Anabaptist said...

No matter how this present spat turns out (probably with Miss B returning to work and things going back to some form of normality), it seems pretty likely that when the time comes for Miss Birbalsingh to move to another job -- probably a headship -- she will not find it easy even to get an interview.

She has allegedly traduced the education establishment. The present battle may end satisfactorily, but the war goes on, and truth-tellers such as she will be casualties.

Ironically, I think her comments and point of view were very mild compared to what could have been said. For instance, I note she still refers to her pupils as 'students', which seems to indicate that she has not yet found her way out of the syntactical, tiger-trap-infested jungle of edu-speak which helps to enmesh its unwitting victims in a philosophy of whose sinister basis they have little idea.

13 October 2010 at 12:36  
Blogger Anabaptist said...

Cranny, you wrote:
"The curious thing is, when one phones the Academy and asks to speak to Ms Birbalsingh, she is ‘not available’."

Actually, matey, this may not be as sinister as you seem to suspect. First, it is likely that she will be being pestered at school by a multitude of media hounds, and a further multitude of well-wishers, and yet another clutch of hate-callers.

Second, she has a full-time job at the school, which will include some timetabled teaching.

If I were in her position I would ask the school's reception to deflect all calls. She must be overwhelmed by the effects of the continuing media storm.

13 October 2010 at 12:46  
Blogger Unsworth said...

@ Anabaptist.

If things are as you indicate, how do parents etc get to talk to Ms Birbalsingh - as is (or should be) part of her job? I have never heard of any school keeping a member of staff completely incommunicado.

Is anyone offering to take messages or ask her to return calls?

See, when people call most schools they'll get The Office answering the phone. It's the job of The Office to pass messages to and from, not to determine who will or will not communicate with staff. So I'd expect a reasonably competent School Secretary to act as a filter, not a barrier, and that filtration process to be at least agreed by the member of staff.

13 October 2010 at 13:34  
Anonymous Harry Flashman said...


It is certainly possible that Dr. Irene Bishop turned around the school, to the extent that it has been turned around, but from the information readily available it feels equally possible that she is a figurehead (it is not her main job and it is not clear how much time she spends there) and some hard working deputy of hers who was there before her did the actual work.

It would not be the first time under NuLabour that posts such as this were used as rewards as a reward for services rendered, not that there is any suggestion of this in Dr. Bishop's case. This is merely a modern but socialist manifestation of the system of peerages and aristocracy, which as well as flourishing under Bliar and Brown is also doing very well in North Korea.

By the way, do we know yet whether Dr. Bishop has any form in this field? Is her doctorate one that was earned by academic exertion or was it an honourary one? That might give some clue as to the probable degree of her involvement in the turnaround, although if it is an honourary degree awarded for a long track record of turning around failing schools then perhaps she deserves another one.

13 October 2010 at 13:49  
Blogger Anabaptist said...

In ordinary circumstances, Mr Unsworth, you would be unquestionably correct. But these are far from ordinary circumstances, which is the point I laboured to make.

To address your objection directly, a parent could easily make him/herself known as such.

You say that you have never heard of any school keeping a member of staff completely incommunicado, but have you ever come across circumstances like this? I have been in and around schools, and continue to be so, for several decades, as a teacher, LEA adviser and visiting examiner, as well as being a governor of two schools, and I have never encountered anything like this. Circumstances, as they say, alter cases.

I certainly did not imply -- and if you check what I wrote you will find no such implication -- that the Secretary or Receptionist was making such a decision on his/her own initiative. If what I have suggested is the case then it is easy enough to conceive that the head, or Miss B herself, asked for a phone blackout until things die down. Otherwise the everyday business of the school could be significantly disrupted. Things are already bad enough.

13 October 2010 at 14:15  
Blogger Unsworth said...


I made no inference as to the school keeping Miss Birbalsingh incommunicado. I merely emphasised that this was most unlikely - by instancing the generality and my experience, and by pointing out that there is/was no offer to take messages. In my experience and opinion it is most unusual not to do so - despite the difficult circumstances.

Deflection is not quite the same as saying that she is 'not available'. Anyone with half a brain who wished to talk to her would then ask when she might become available - or what other means there were of communicationg with her, short of the ouija board. Thus I'd have thought it reasonable to assume she was/is not on the premises.

But you have also 'implied' or appear to think that Ms Birbalsingh is probably back in the school. I'd ask - how does one know? I suggest that the preponderance of evidence (as put forward by His Grace) is that she is not, and I have no reason to suppose otherwise. No doubt time will tell. Perhaps the press may have photographed her on her way into or out of the school. This will run for a while yet, I'd hazard.

13 October 2010 at 15:32  
Blogger Jared Gaites said...

I got up early this morning and as I was brushing my teeth A stream of thoughts passed through what I have been given as a brain.

Why did evolution suddenly stop?

If we are made in God's image, and Jesus was a Homo Sapien sapien, then there are obviously no planned changes to our genes in the pipeline.

I mean, the most powerful aspect of genes due to evolution is that they change and evolve, things morph into new species etc. The natural environment changes and species adapt and change through natural selection etc, mutations pop up and the survival of the fittest takes place.

So if our environment changes, and it does seem to be, well, so they say anyways, will this create mutations of the human race? A new species of human?

Or is it that being created in the image of God is a process not yet fully complete? I mean like when you get children being born with severe deficiencies, and yet we still consider them human. Then maybe a more advanced race will come after us and still consider us human, created in the image of God.

Or is it simply a case that evolution has stopped for some peculiar reason? What will be here on Earth when the Sun goes super nova? Will it be humans as they are now? I know that as a Christian I am supposed to subscribe to the Second Coming, but there is no clear indication about when this is going to take place.

All this while brushing my teeth this morning! Good Christ.

Anyways, Ms Birbalsingh. Best wishes and good luck with it all.


13 October 2010 at 17:12  
Blogger Jared Gaites said...

I forgot to mention the Aliens.

The story of Jesus and Christianity is the story of the fall of man, and the redemption and saving nature of Christ's sacrifice. If we are ever visited by Aliens from another planet, who have their own religion and who resemble Freako The Bog Slug, then we are in trouble because we could never sell the saving nature of our Jesus to them because they would not be men as such and have no part in the Good News. There would be no preaching the Gospel to Freako The Bog Slug would there?

A difficult one.

13 October 2010 at 17:36  
Anonymous bluedog said...

Mr Jared Gaites, have you considered using a toothpaste free from halucingenic properties?

14 October 2010 at 08:13  
Anonymous len said...

Mr Gates, Any'aliens'observing us from beyond our Planet in Space and time would(quite rightly)conclude that we were a most dangerous species.
Humanity was made in the image of God but Humanity rejected this and as a result became a projection of the image of satan with the ensuing death, destruction and disorder that this produces.

Fortunately( for us )God has provided a solution for those willing to take it.

14 October 2010 at 10:19  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, good. That's sorted then.

14 October 2010 at 11:16  
Blogger Man in a Shed said...

The answer is surely for Katherine Birbalsingh to set up a free school.

She now has all the required political support.

14 October 2010 at 22:43  
Blogger Little Black Sambo said...

the Head Teacher and Ms Birbalsingh should meet privately to make their mutual apologies

14 October 2010 at 23:51  

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