Closure of St Michaels and All Angels school

Nigel Ford's picture
This is an inner city comprehensive school in Southwark where Katherine Birbalsingh had been employed as a Deputy Head since September 2010 but is now facing closure as new year 7 applications had fallen to just 16 making it "non-viable."

It should be noted that St Michaels and All Angels had shown huge improvements in its GCSE performance in 2010 (before the arrival of Ms Birbalsingh) with 46% of pupils gaining 5 or more GCSEs, up from 27% in 2009. The average A'level score had shown similar progress within that timescale by advancing to 196.3 points from 135.9. These improvements had been reflected in a recent positive OFSTED report.

Ms Birbalsingh who had paraded photographs of students from St Michaels on large screens at the Conservative party conference last October and then parodied them during her speech was subsequently suspended by the school. The right wing journalist, Melanie Phillips, later questioned the teacher's judgement in her newpaper column.

The chair of governors, Canon Peter Clark, said that "Ms Birbalsingh's tub-thumping attack on incapable teachers ‘blinded by Leftist ideology’ had dealt a fatal blow to the school. ‘The publicity that she generated was very unhelpful, which certainly didn’t help in terms of pupil recruitment." He added that "an inspection of the school held shortly before Christmas had shown that ‘nothing that she said was right."

In view of the extra public resources and hard work that have gone into this school in making it academy status coupled with the loss of jobs and disruption to childrens education, it is a tragedy its doors will close.

Katherine Birbalsingh herself has neither accepted any blame for its closure nor expressed any dismay.

There may be more to this story than meets the eye but one cannot help but think that if this woman had not been employed at the school (for all of 5 weeks) before her public grandstanding, closure may not have been its destiny.
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Fiona Millar's picture
Wed, 02/02/2011 - 09:10

Yes and she is still going on about it here although the comments in response are interesting. It would seem some people are tiring of this combination of victimhood and self justification. However don't forget she has a book coming out soon so expect to hear more bile about state schools from the same source.

Andrew Old's picture
Sat, 05/02/2011 - 08:51

I think this smear against Katharine Birbalsingh just damages all who make it.

The school was a basketcase before she went there:

If the school's low level of applications were a result of her speech, then perhaps you might tell us how many applications there were the previous year.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 06/02/2011 - 14:18

The school is was judged a failing academy by OFSTED in April 2010. Ms Birbalsingh must have been aware of this when she applied to work there. In December 2010 the school received a positive report by OFSTED including: “Students were making satisfactory or good progress in all the lessons visited during the inspection. Teachers have positive and productive relationships with their students” and “Behaviour has improved. Lessons are calm and orderly, and students are polite and friendly”

This positive OFSTED report was not given anywhere near the number of column metres given to Ms Birbalsingh’s speech to the Conservative Conference on 5 October 2010 when she had been deputy-head for only five weeks. She had presumably been employed to help the school’s recovery. Instead, she was diverted from this task to collect pictures of children for use in her presentation.
Ms Birbalsingh claimed she had parental consent to show the pictures. However, I am unsure whether the parents of Cane and Mitchell knew their sons would be mocked for their use of the term “anger management”.

Much of her speech repeated the stereotypes against leftist-inspired teaching. However, there were two points she made with which I agree absolutely:

“League tables have us [teachers] pursuing targets and grades instead of teaching properly,” and teachers were drowning in a “sea of bureaucracy”.

I wonder if Mr Gove was nodding vigorously at this point. I doubt it.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 06/02/2011 - 15:41

So much about Ms Birbalsingh doesn’t add up.
She says she is from the developing world, but she was born in New Zealand and brought up in Canada. She said in her Conservative speech that she was state educated. Was she referring to the Canadian state system or her time at Oxford?

She says she was a Tory darling for a day. Why, then, the constant need to remind us? Why the constant blogs? The twitter feeds? The website? The book?

She says that there’s a lot more she can say about her old school (based on five weeks of experience) but will not criticise them. She claims, therefore, that her words could not have caused the slump in applicants for 2011. However, using pictures of pupils from the school at a time when parents were choosing secondary school places would hardly have encouraged parents to name the school as first choice.

In her blog she describes talking with sixth-formers at a top public school about what makes a teacher effective. The conversation went like this:

Ms B: “Yes, but surely if Dr Magic were to stay exactly as he is now but he is also able to engage every single one of you in the class, this makes him a better teacher, no?”

The boys shake their heads, laughing. “No!” One boy cries. “When Silly Boy doesn’t listen to Dr Magic, that’s not Dr Magic’s fault; that’s Silly Boy’s fault!” They laugh and laugh.'

Year 6 pupils, never mind sixth-formers, would die of shame to be described as speaking like this.

All blogs and more, much more, from:

Nigel Ford's picture
Mon, 07/02/2011 - 20:17

Kat's blogs always provide good entertainment for their quirky content and strange colloquialisms which pervade her musings.

In her latest piece, which on the whole is very eloquent because she is reciting an e-mail she received from a 17 year old schoolgirl who was educated at a Birmingham comprehensive school, Kat subsequently accredits Francis and Fiona with the idiosyncrasies of the national curriculum that have caused this articulate girl to contact her with her grievance.

It's good to know that she believes Francis and Fiona have such influence in these matters....more's the pity they don't.

Fiona Millar's picture
Mon, 07/02/2011 - 21:58

Nigel -you might enjoy this rather long but interesting exchange if you haven't seen it already

Nigel Ford's picture
Mon, 07/02/2011 - 22:29

I expect the exchange has some distance to go.

Certainly a feisty individual with forthright views which aren't always consistent.

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