Headteacher of ‘strictest school in country’ made CBE

Katharine Birbalsingh, headmistress of the Michaela Community School
Katharine Birbalsingh, headmistress of the Michaela Community School
22:30pm, Fri 09 Oct 2020
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The headteacher of a school which makes children attend a “behaviour boot camp” on arrival to teach them to walk faster is among the education leaders named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours

Katharine Birbalsingh, founder and head of Michaela Community School in north London, a free school which has been described as Britain’s strictest school, has been made a CBE.

Ms Birbalsingh said the honour was a tribute to her staff and her former colleague Michaela Emanus, after whom the secondary school in Wembley is named, and their traditional style of teaching.

Speaking to the PA news agency, she said: “I’m proud of the impact that we’ve had on the educational sphere from the ground, from the position of teachers, ordinary teachers and ordinary children doing an excellent job day in day out and questioning the status quo in education.”

Year 7 pupils at Michaela School are taught how to sit properly on a chair, how to walk to lessons quickly in single file, and how to concentrate on the teacher, to instil good behaviour as soon as they arrive.

Being strict is looking after the small details and when you do that, you don't have the big problems. They just don't occur

New students are also encouraged to keep their shirts tucked in and to pick up crumbs from the floor after eating as part of the boot camp, which teaches pupils how to “behave in the Michaela way”.

“Being strict is looking after the small details and when you do that, you don’t have the big problems. They just don’t occur,” Ms Birbalsingh told PA.

A second Michaela free school, Michaela Community School Stevenage, has been approved by the Government to open in September 2023.

This year’s list was postponed from June in order to include people, including education leaders, who have been instrumental in the Covid-19 effort.

Matthew Hood and David Thomas from the Oak National Academy, a Government-backed virtual school launched during the lockdown, have both been made an OBE for their services to education.

Oak National Academy, an online classroom hub, was launched in April after schools closed to the majority of children.

Mr Hood, founder and principal of the virtual school, said: “This honour is really a recognition of the tireless work of the hundreds of teachers and colleagues who created it, in a matter of days.

“They showed the best of our profession – innovative, caring and dedicated to supporting children and their peers.”

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