Monday, October 11, 2010

The political persecution of Katharine Birbalsingh

She was ‘suspended’ last week, after delivering an electrifying speech at the Conservative Party conference on the state of Britain’s ‘broken’ education system.

And it’s not just ‘broken’.

Ms Birbalsingh has helpfully since elucidated her meaning and explained that it is, in fact, ‘fundamentally broken’.

Fundamental: adj. of, affecting, or serving as a base or foundation, essential, primary, original (OED).

This didn’t go down well with Dr Irene Bishop, the Executive Headteacher of St Michael and All Angels Academy in Camberwell, who appears to have taken it all rather personally.

What Ms Birbalsingh objectively appropriated to state education in general, Dr Bishop subjectively ascribed to her school in particular.

Or, rather, to one of her schools. For her leadership of the St Michael and All Angels Academy is part-time, perhaps only one or two days a week, because her primary allegiance is to St Saviour's and St Olave's School, which also has a Church of England foundation in the Diocese of Southwark.

And if you compare the sparse and bleak website of St Michael and All Angels with the vibrant and technicolor one belonging to St Saviour’s and St Olave’s, you might detect a slight indication of the relative pride and shame.

Of course, one shouldn’t judge a school by its website.

But one does.

And it is doubtful that Ms Birbalsingh is the webmaster for St Michael and All Angels.

It would appear that Dr Bishop has welcomed a prime minister, a mayor and a monarch to her favourite school.

There is no indication on the St Michael and All Angels website that she has yet invited anyone to judge for themselves whether or not Ms Birbalsingh has a point about it being ‘totally and utterly chaotic’ with a lack of discipline in black boys in particular which keeps the ‘poor children poor’.

Ofsted, of course, are able to invite themselves.

And their findings tend to vindicate the perceptions of Ms Birbalsingh.

According to the statement issued last week by the academy’s sponsors, Southwark Diocesan Board of Education, Ms Birbalsingh ‘will return to work’ today.

His Grace is rather doubtful about this.

At least, she deserves a little ‘clarification’ before she does so.

The Diocese’s statement was a very public and utterly humiliating rebuke to the deputy headteacher. Certainly, that is how the media interpreted it.

Ms Birbalsingh was criticised inter alia because she had ‘used pictures of children from our school and made reference to them by name’. The Diocese said: ‘We are concerned by this and in particular by the way in which the pictures have been used.’

Well, it transpires that not only had Ms Birbalsingh secured the necessary permissions of the children and their parents to use these photographs, but she did so with the full knowledge and consent of the headteacher.

The confusion or lack of communication is perhaps a consequence of having a part-time ‘flying’ Executive Headteacher who doesn’t know what the full-time ‘on-the-ground’ headteacher is doing.

Or saying.

The statement of the Diocese does not indicate at all that Ms Birbalsingh had secured the permission of her headteacher. Indeed, it rather suggests that she had not.

The omission of this salient fact from this press release is, at best, an inadvertent imprecision or, at worst, evidence of collusion and cover-up.

If the latter, it is a resigning matter either for the Executive Headteacher or the academy’s Chair of Governors. If the statement were simply an inadvertent imprecision, one wonders whether the helpful and obliging ‘on-the-ground’ headteacher might today have the integrity to explain to the ‘flying’ Executive Headteacher why he saw fit to grant such permission if it be a serious breach of child protection regulations.

Or at least speak up to restore the personal integrity and professional standing of Ms Birbalsingh, who has had her reputation unjustly trashed by Dr Bishop’s precipitous decision to send her home last week.

Dr Bishop is concerned with perceptions, inaccurate generalisations and educational equality. Ms Birbalsingh is concerned with facts, reality and educational inequality.

It is not so much a clash of civilisations as a collision of conceptual ideologies.

For the ‘Blairite’ Dr Bishop, ‘all schools have high aspirations for our young people whatever their background’: her creed is beyond question. For the Tory Ms Birbalsingh, the children born into disadvantage face an almost impossible struggle to get out if it, and the education system cannot facilitate social mobility as long as its ‘essential, primary’ foundation is based upon the dogma of 'equality', which makes few demands on pupils and bludgeons teachers into making excuses for their failure, especially for the young black males.

It is fortunate indeed that Ms Birbalsingh is of Indian-Guyanese-Jamaican heritage: it makes her racially untouchable, and her gender facilitates the reception of her damning critique. If she were a lesbian, she’d have a discrimination hat-trick and her school would urgently be looking to settle out of court. Certainly, no English white male could have got away with saying such things at a Conservative Party conference without being accused of racism or of affirming the ‘nasty party’ leitmotif.

His Grace would like to remind everyone that St Michael and All Angels is a Church of England school.

It is sponsored by the Southwark Diocesan Board of Education

Its Chairman of Governors is Canon Peter Clark.

It includes three other clerics on its Governing Body, and doubtless others who profess to be Christians.

Its Executive Headteacher is positively effusive about the importance of the Christian faith in education; indeed, she says it ‘raspberry ripples’ its way throughout her whole ethos (play the 'welcome' video).

So, could we please have a ‘statement of clarification’, exonerating Ms Birbalsingh from the suggestion that she ‘used’ the photographs of children without acquiring permission?

And an apology would also be appropriate.

All she did, after all, was to tell the truth.

Or is Dr Irene Bishop simply going to issue the same riposte to this as Pilate did?


Blogger jdennis_99 said...

Freedom of speech and expression are slowly being strangled by political correctness. This amounts to nothing more than political discrimination. Mugabe does the same thing to his enemies.

They should be prosecuted.

11 October 2010 at 10:18  
Anonymous Seeker after Truth said...

If it's the same Irene Bishop, then she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Exeter University in 2004 -

Am I right in feeling that it's not quite the done thing to style yourself a 'Dr' on the basis of having done nothing but turn up to an honorary degree ceremony?

Certainly she's keen to use the title whenever she can. For example, see the video on the home page of the St Saviour's School website -

She starts by saying "Hello, my name is Dr Irene Bishop and I'm the headmistress of St Saviour's and St Olave's School".

11 October 2010 at 11:01  
Blogger Andrew Bower said...

Seeker after the Truth, that would presumably depend on whether she also has another, non-honorary, doctorate?

11 October 2010 at 11:29  
Anonymous Seeker after Truth said...

Good point, Andrew.

On a school advert on the TES website - - her description is given as follows: "Headmistress Dr Irene Bishop BEd (Hons), MA, LLD".

So unless she has two LLD's, then her honorary doctorate is the only one she has.

11 October 2010 at 11:39  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That Southwark is involved is a clue in itself. They recently authorised a service and sermon at the Cathedral by a certain unspellable (and unspeakable) American woman Bishop. Though to be fair the more traditional clergy in the Diocese (who are FCA members) did distance themselves from this event.

Amazingly good speech by Miss Snuffy - do pass on my support and keep up the good work YG. Your blog is one I read most days so good to see you back.

While appearing anonymous I confess to being geographically within the domain of Bishop Wallace Benn (an excellent Bishop IMHO) and blue with a hint of UKIP.

11 October 2010 at 11:52  
Anonymous len said...

Our Education system is broken,but this is just a symptom of the larger problem which is of a Society which is broken.Christian foundations are being destroyed and the family unit which is an integral part of society is under constant attack.
There seem to be a class of children who are basically 'written off' just given a token education and these go on to form an underclass who live on the edge of society feeling they owe nothing to society.Which is partly the problem with where we find ourselves today.
As we continue to push God and Godly values out of our society we will find this decline accelerating.

11 October 2010 at 12:03  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

His Grace has, I believe, already asked Dr. Bishop to confirm where her title comes from and her right to use it. It will be very interesting to hear her reply.

The difference in website is interesting but, to be fair, the exec head and head are both as new as Ms. Birbalsingh. This also goes some way to explain the lack of invitations to the great and good. The Ofsted report and police presence outside the gates probably goes further however.

Listening to Dr Bishop's welcome speech is fascinating. I wonder if the feeling of being "valued" extends to teachers who speak out such as Ms. Birbalsingh?

If Ms. Birbalsingh walks back in without some serious assurance and a public statement I would be amazed. Her reputation has been damaged and, as a result, her ability to do her job. Her employers made a statement before that the media saw as a rebuke - let them do the same again in support of, at the very least, her right to speak her mind and acknowledging she did nothing wrong.

11 October 2010 at 12:07  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Your Grace

This affair is a collision of conceptual ideologies and their practical manifestations.

Left-liberal values in education inhibit discipline; neutralise competition arrest standards and preside over their decline. This is particularly marked in inner-city schools.

There is nothing that the Coalition government can do about this until it removes the Human Rights Act 1998 and collapses the case law that prohibits meaningful discipline.

Gove’s idea of ‘Free Schools’ is flawed in that it encourages these ‘Free Schools’ to take on failing pupils through monetary incentives – all that will happen is that disruptive pupils will be imported into them.

The fundamental problem will still remain.

Parents realise that disciplinary problems cannot be resolved; that is why they are desperate to get their children into these new schools.

There is a further barrier other than the statutory one. The cultural values projected by the Sixties revolution that has led to the rise of the single parent family - that cannot afford to be a single parent family.

11 October 2010 at 12:09  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has His Grace hit a nerve? The website of the academy is no longer available.

11 October 2010 at 12:23  
Blogger Woman on a Raft said...

St Michael's needs more than a part-time head. Irene Bishop may be making a reasonable job of it over at StS&StO's but that is a secret grammar school and is six times over-subscribed.

I could run it - it's not difficult if you can reject 5 out of 6 applicants and every parent is desperate to make sure that their poppet stays inside a girls' school for which they'd have to pay £15k a year in the private sector. Bargain.

St Michael's is a much tougher gig - a more Christian one in some respects - with the job of trying to bring light to a population which is not keen on it. It is a pity that Ms Birbalsingh hasn't got another two years in hand as a deputy head but she's up to the job; let's have her in post immediately.

As regards the LLD; there's nothing wrong with being proud of an honorary degree which is awarded for work in the community. It is a genuine certificate in the way that a five pound note is real by virtue of having been issued by the Bank of England, but it would be misleading to present it as an academic degree.

Unfortunately honorary degrees and purely honorary job titles have been used in such a way that the unwary may think that they are talking to a real doctor or lawyer etc.

Interesting though, that the school hasn't immediately clarified which sort of degree it is.

11 October 2010 at 12:51  
Blogger Anabaptist said...

Keep at it, Cranny. You're doing a good job. Even the great Peter Hitchens agrees with you on this:

"The only proper conservative speech at the Tory Conference came from teacher Katharine Birbalsingh, who was sent home from her ­ London school on Thursday for speaking the truth.
"I suspect that these words were the ones that caused the trouble: 'I don't think ordinary parents have any idea about what goes on in their schools. But it is totally and utterly chaotic.
'Teachers spend most of their time telling children to sit down or stop disrupting the class rather than teaching.'
"She added that there was 'a conspiracy of silence' in staff rooms because teachers were too afraid of being branded as ­ failures if they admitted how bad the true ­picture was. Which I think is proved by what happened to her."


11 October 2010 at 13:00  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Am I the only one to see through Miss Katherine Birbalsingh? It is obvious to anyone with any sense at all that she is a middle aged white man in deep cover. Simples!

11 October 2010 at 14:02  
Blogger Just Wonderful said...

Ah, it seems that the website is being updated. Or as the semi-literate person in charge of the update would have it, "this page is currently been updated"

11 October 2010 at 14:58  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Website is back. With no changes made to the typos or bad grammar. Maybe it just went down under all the traffic?

11 October 2010 at 15:26  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Strangely enough the "staff" and "vacancies" pages at St Michael and All Angels are been (sic) updated. Perhaps they will be looking for new Executive Headteacher in the near future. If the "updated" message is anything to go by , they should also be looking for someone qualified to teach english , this is it

This page is currently been updated, check back again soon.

11 October 2010 at 16:16  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seems to be down again now.

11 October 2010 at 17:08  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


11 October 2010 at 17:11  
Anonymous not a machine said...

Your grace makes some useful points on the link to freedom for professonals to speak out and not be show trialed for reactionary motives , let us hope that things can be reapired and appologies made .

The statement about male children from poorer backgrounds having problems is perhaps nothing new , my concern is that children and parents are becomming detached . Children increasingly live in a world of there own , thanks to the addictive nature of video games and social networking , and if they live in world of there own at home it is very difficult to get them to be attentaive at school . I am sure many teachers will no doubt face the texting or even personal music that goes on during class .

This problem is perhaps due to the sucesss of marketing these devices and media into homes and also perhaps parents giving up on there responsibilities as the children dont bother them so much . There is clearly a third object in family homes these days , which wasnt there when I was growing up , quite as to how parental roles have become trivialised or for that matter non cyberworld social skills of the children (who one day will become parents) to me is sending out a very worrying signal on dependence on somthing that is mind and not person .It concerns me deeply that we could be walking to into an era of dangerous social perhaps even pyscopathic thinking , as everything has become logical .

Far from being the subdued fabian eutopia where we are all equal , it may turn out that parenting to bring up emotionally balanced children , should not have been given to an "app" in the first place .

the real world educational life and the cyberworld one may be far more probelmatic/dangerous than the invested billions in its markets would wish to tell .

After all I am definitely not a PC

11 October 2010 at 17:15  
Anonymous Eeyore said...

'... Dr Bishop’s precipitous decision to send her home last week. '

What, she pushed her over a cliff?


Please forgive the intrusion of levity into these august chambers.

Do keep on with this story, YG: I fear that Ms Birbalsingh will survive only until the meeja have found other meat on which to feast, whereupon she will get what's coming to her.

11 October 2010 at 18:07  
Anonymous Epictetus said...

Yo ya Grace man!

Woz gwaan?

Respec' n shit like for ya sick site! B-rrrrap!

You izz de mon. Der is bear tings good about it, innit!

You an yor main ho Miz Ball Bag Slap deserve much respek. You is well peak!!!

'low the haters!

"Epic Tits 'r us"

11 October 2010 at 18:14  
Anonymous Eeyore said...

For amusement, I've just emailed the school to ask for details of Dr Bishop's degrees and the awarding institutions, excluding any given honoris causa.

I don't expect a reply, but if by chance one should arrive, I'll post it over here.

11 October 2010 at 18:53  
Anonymous Epictetus said...

Yo Eyore!

Nah listen man!

Dey gotta tell you wot yu asking 4, digree certificuts n'chit. Coz the guvunment say so in da Freedam a Infomashun Act. All yo gotta do man is like send dem ya request fa informashyan, n den b-wrrrrrap! Dey gives it you or dey in sheet, an I mean deep shit like innit.

Maybe do acadermy skools not dem yet subjict to da Condom a Information Act buhh dem Housa Lords gave da Act its 3d reeding n shit dis summer, so dey be worned, cos da Eyore man and dat cool itch mis ba ba babaal sing iz cuming.



11 October 2010 at 19:12  
Anonymous Epictetus said...

Yo Eeeyore

Pee yes to ma last man, listen!

Da skool dey can argue like dat yo freedom a infomashun request it be personal data and den dat excluded from da information freedom shit. but dey wrong and fugin no nufin like no no no shit.

da qualifications o da principal and da teachers dey be public information not da private. N dats woti sahib mitt to yy yo argew to dem. Coz dey is wrong like.

but be gud n reddy to argew ya case man cos dey is one shit disorganized organization innit and Bliar Tony da ho a da head (well exec head or shit like) he be da man inventered freedam da formationin.


"Pics da TEET us"

11 October 2010 at 19:24  
Anonymous Huldah said...

Your Grace

It's clear that you have good reason to believe that Ms Birbalsingh had all the relevant permissions - from parents and Dr Bishop - to use stories, photos and names of individual students.

Therein may lie Dr Bishop's alarm. For permissions or not, it seems to me - and I have experience of secondary school teaching spanning several decades - rash for Ms Birbalsingh to have used photos and proper names of students in her talk. I am sure I'm not alone in being surprised that Dr Bishop granted her consent rather than insisting on some anonymity (pseudonyms at least) to protect the students from consequences that they themselves might not have foreseen.

Please do not misunderstand me; 'To Miss with Love' was compulsive reading, and it is wonderful that Ms Birbalsingh has courageously spoken out about the horrors and double-think-speak which exist in some of our schools. No longer will those truths be able to crawl back into the woodwork of our schools, destroying their fabric from within. The educational establishment has a case to answer.

However, in her frustration and grief over the dis-service being done to our young people by political correctness and the do-gooders (and do-badders) who have consistently undermined the authority of teachers in their classrooms, I wonder whether she did not overstep the boundaries of recognised professional confidentiality - with the result that her head teacher does not want to be seen to have agreed to her indiscretion.

11 October 2010 at 19:31  
Anonymous Rationalist said...

Neither the School nor the Diocese react to emails - not even with a (civil) acknowledgment.

11 October 2010 at 22:08  
Anonymous Dr. Epictetus said...

Yo Ratinalista!

Yo da bro o dat frency ray nez dez carts or wot man?

unda da Freeeedam da Infamashun low dey do not havta acknoledge ya requist fa infaaamashum. But - and diz iz da ting man, right - dey must reply widdin a 20 working days. An we knoz from da "doktor" bishap how hard dey is wokin in dat skool right.

Ya requist fa infamashun are FOI rekwests (subject to ma KVat abbuv man) wedda da skool reacts or not, seeveel or not, so dey fukka da up just dat much and Dr Bish an her crew be flying da rubber dog shit outta hong kong. Bw-rrrrrap!

L 8 TERS !!!

"Doctor Piccy da Et us"

11 October 2010 at 22:29  
Anonymous non mouse said...

Oh! What brilliant witness to the efficacy of Radical Revision!

12 October 2010 at 03:04  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Epictetus's parody of Jamaican dialect is SO TERRIBLY WITTTY, is it not, your Grace?

Please give us more, Epictetus!

You're just so right! Black people ARE stupid. And that funny dialect of theirs is indeed SIDE-SPLITTINGLY HILARIOUS.

It reminds me of the last time I was in Paris. All of the people there — did you know this? — speak with a ridiculous French accent. I spent the entire week in stitches! People who don't talk like us are just SO FUNNY!!!!

12 October 2010 at 04:06  
Anonymous non mouse said...

If that's pure Jamaican I'm a Dutchman, as my ol' mammy might have said. It looks pretty multi-culti, if you ask me. As I said - Radical Revision...

12 October 2010 at 05:46  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous 0406

I can't see that Epictetus said or implied that black people are stupid. He seems to be a fan of Ms Birbalsingh, who is not exactly white and about as far from stupid as the schools she teaches in are from Oxford, intellectually speaking.

Why do you assume that Epictetus is parodying anything rather than being as accurate as he / she can be? And why do you think it is Jamaican?

He sounds rather closer to home. If anything it is a parody of "youth speak." If you walk down a street in South London blindfolded you might hear something like this vernacular, and on removing the blindfold you'd be hard pressed to tell who had said what.

Perhaps your own preconceptions are what you see?

12 October 2010 at 05:57  
Anonymous Dr. Epictetus, MA, BEd, NuLab said...


C'est vrai que à Paris presque tout le monde parlent français, sauf les touristes bien sûr. Alors quand j'habitais à Paris j'ai essayé d'apprendre la langue. (Et c'est la langue la plus belle du monde, selon mois.) Et maintenant j'essaie d'apprendre une autre langue que n'utilize pas l'alphabet romain. C'est difficile, mais carrement c'est possible pour moi grace a l'éducation q'on m'a donné il y a une trentaine d'ans.

Le grand projet lancé par Mlle. Birbalsingh et M. Gove est d'une importance primordiale pour le Royaume Uni, et surtout pour les enfants pauvres et des minorités ethniques. Un des obstacles le plus grand devant ce projet est que les enfants dans les ecoles des banlieues ne parlent pas l'anglais. Souvent ils parlent dans le patois que j'ai imité. Vous êtes alors un peu "why-da da mark 'n shit" si vous pensez que ce patios vient de La Jamaïque. C'est un patois grotesque, une langue aussi déplaisante que le francais est belle, mais même ça ne si vous plaît pas les jeunes dans les ecoles aujourd'hui le parlent.

تفضلوا بقبول فائق الاحترام


12 October 2010 at 07:12  
Blogger Sally Roberts said...

It is a truth almost universally acknowledged that Socialists believe in keeping people poor.

It is what they do.

12 October 2010 at 11:27  
Blogger Idle Pen Pusher said...

Snuffy's one of the best. As was her speech.

12 October 2010 at 13:00  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad to see the black minstrel show has stopped.

Merci bien, Epictete.

12 October 2010 at 14:54  
Anonymous "Dr." Epictetus said...

Anonymous, you are the one who brought black into it. I neither mentioned nor implied black. If that's how you see the patios then you have no idea how children of all hues speak in many London schools today. Which is part of the problem this post discusses.

Before you attribute prejudices to me, perhaps you might care to look at your own?

"Doc 'pictetus"

12 October 2010 at 15:32  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, right.


12 October 2010 at 19:29  
Blogger Mike A said...

I passed 'O' level French in 1963, since when I have had nothing to do with the language. Nonetheless I can read Epictetus' post. What price a decent (grammar) education, and how few children will currently get one?

12 October 2010 at 20:09  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

“You izz de mon”

“You an yor main ho”

“All yo gotta do man is like send dem ya request fa informashyan, n den b-wrrrrrap! Dey gives it you or dey in sheet…”

Mon — C’est le dialecte noir, et non pas des autres.
Ho — C’est une parole du dialecte noir, très connue. Si les autres l’utilisent aussi, c’est parce qu’ils imitent, comme vous, le dialecte noir.

Informashyan — C’est tout à fait une imitation du créole jamaïcain.

Dat, den, dey, dem — Toujours le dialecte noir. (Les jeunes blancs, comme tout le monde le sait, diraient ‘vat’, ‘ven’, ‘vey’, ‘vem’.)

En plus, c 'est très clair que votre jeune noir est très, très bête. Par example, il pense que le “Freedom of Information Act” s’appelle “da Condom a Information Act”. (Oh quelle hilarité! Quelle originalité! Dès maintenant on va vous appeller, non pas Epictete, mais Monsieur Voltaire!)

En bref — vous imitez le dialecte des noirs de Londres, et c’est évident vous croyez que les gens qui parlent leur propre dialecte, si ce n’est pas le votre (et surtout s’ils sont noirs) sont, en tant que tels, stupides, et qu’ils méritent d'être humiliés.

Si vous ne savez pas ce que vous faites, vous êtes aussi con que raciste. (Ça ne m’étonne pas. Être raciste, c’est déjà être super con.) Si vous ne voulez pas l’avouer, vous mentez et vous demonstrez que vous n’etes pas une personne honnête.

Mais au moins vous parlez français. Felicitations! On va vous offrir une bouteille de champagne et des chocolats — blancs, bien sur. Malheureusement je dois vous informer que ça ne sert strictement à rien contre votre stupidité.

12 October 2010 at 22:06  
Anonymous Marx said...

It seems to me there's far too much self-promotion at work for us to believe Ms Birbalsignh's claims that her only concern is the educational system and her pupils. What was the need to stand up at the Tory party conference and say "I was a Marxist [ha! an Oxford dilettante] and now I'm a Tory"? Why not just say "Here is how the system is broken, and if you people can fix it, you have my support"? Because she wouldn't have got the headlines she did. And what do party politics have to do with it? Did New Labour invent the problems? (Are the Tories going to fix them?) A publicity hound, in short.

While I am here, making my first comment on your blog, Your Grace, let me say that you are the most fatuous toad(y) I have ever come across. Good night.

13 October 2010 at 04:57  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The BBC's "flagship" programme Today has now compounded the felony by getting Ms Birbalsingh to come in for interview and then focusing on the trivia of her political relationship with the Minister of Education rather than the core of her account as to "what is going on in schools".

19 October 2010 at 09:31  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My Mum went to St Saviours and St Olives, attends old girls meetings every year and is extremely proud of the school.

From what I can make of it Dr Bishop has been called into assist with a struggling school (SMAAA) and Miss Birbalsinghs speech reeks of conservatist sour grapes, self promotion and smugness and seems just a bit "Waterloo Road".

BTW (all the racists that have posted here) St Saviours, like soooo many schools across the country has a hugely successful and mixed pupilage.

30 October 2010 at 17:29  

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