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Britain’s Strictest Headmistress (ITV Sun 22 May 2022)



Katharine Birbalsingh is happy to be labelled Britain’s Strictest Headmistress. She runs the Michaela Community School in Wembley. It’s a culturally diverse school in one of London’s most deprived boroughs, and yet the children are perfectly behaved. How does she do it?

She does it by being extremely strict.

For the first time Birbalsingh lets a documentary film crew inside the school to show how her systems work. We meet children who are in detention for not making eye-contact, or because they’ve forgotten their second pencil.

We meet Corliss, who joins Year 8 half way through the school year: “Strict is how I would describe it,” he says gloomily, after his preliminary meeting. “I can’t say I’m looking forward to it…”

Jeremy Paxman visits the school. He loves the quiet environment, but he complains about children raising their hands in unison when the teacher asks a questions: “Why must I be putting my hand up all the bloody time? That would annoy me I think.”

Birbalsingh is unrepentant. In her opinion, we are failing our children because we’re too lenient. Teachers have lost control, parents have given up, and standards are on the slide.

Our fractured culture offers no moral certainty and no one is prepared to say what’s right or wrong. Without leadership from adults, young people make up the rules. Media mobs encourage outrage; a heightened sense of injustice leads to victimhood; taking responsibility is too much effort; concepts like duty, obedience and allegiance to Nation are ridiculed as archaic and irrelevant.

In this controversial, authored documentary Katharine Birbalsingh offers her blueprint for a better future. Never one to shy away from difficult subjects, Birbalsingh’s proposals are punchy and provocative.

Airdate: Sunday 22 May 2022 at 10.15pm on ITV.