The headteacher who banned prayer in classrooms at her London school is going on trial

“I don’t want to divide children according to race and religion. Such divisions are useless if a multicultural society is to be successful. The resounding message has arrived Katharine BirbalsinghThe headteacher at Michaela Community School, a secondary school in London, made headlines in British newspapers after a student came forward appeal the ban to the Supreme Court imposed by the center can pray.

The secular public school – known for its strict disciplinary procedures, including silence in the hallways and a ban on cell phones – has around 700 students and about half are Muslims. Building There is no prayer room, something that parents know very well from the start. In any case, students were always admitted Pray in the yard.

But everything changed in March last year 30 students begin to pray, kneeling in their jacketswhich led to a social media campaign against the center Bomb threats, abuse and accusations of Islamophobia. The teachers were terrified when they received death threats.

Birbalsingh said the ban helped restore calm. But one of the students, whose identity is not revealed because she is a minor, started a lawsuit in which they are accused of discrimination. Court documents submitted to the Supreme Court – which will make a ruling in the coming days – say the student was suspended last year over alleged allegations threaten to stab another childalthough his lawyers point out that his account of events was not taken into account.

“If you have a multicultural community, you have to actively encourage children to transcend those racial and religious boundaries… I don’t want to divide them.” It goes against our principles. “If it were the case that after lunch the non-Muslims were sent to the courtyard and the Muslims were sent upstairs to run through the corridors and go into random classrooms to pray, it would be complete chaos,” Birbalsingh clarifies.

This is not the first time that this teacher has attracted media attention. Birbalsingh is known as “the strictest headteacher in the UK” for the discipline imposed at the school she founded in 2014.

But the truth is Your method works. The school is in Brent, in one of the poorest areas of north London. More than a quarter (26.7%) of pupils come from disadvantaged backgrounds and around 70% speak English as a second language. But 82% enrolled in the best universities. Their grades were well above average and the school was rated “outstanding” by regulator Ofsted.

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“We only admire the kids who get into Oxford, or the kids who grow up in the slums and become multimillionaires.” But instead more attention should be paid to those who are making small progress, such as those whose parents were unemployed and are now have a job, the son of a postman who becomes a branch manager, or the daughter of a social worker who becomes a primary school teacher,” she explains.

Birbalsingh was born in New Zealand and grew up in Canada. She was 15 years old when she moved to England with her family. Because of her merits, the government appointed her at the end of 2021 as principal adviser to the Social Mobility Commission – created to ensure that the circumstances in which you are born do not determine your life. However, due to the controversy that each of his interventions generated, he resigned a year later. He never minced his words. He even said that the then Prime Minister Boris Johnson He is “a bad role model for children” because he doesn’t seem “professional enough”.

In an interview with The Telegraph He stressed that a school’s culture is crucial to helping children achieve their potential and warned that teachers should not allow young people to “give in” to a victim narrative. “Schools must foster a culture that embraces personal responsibility, encourages you to be resilient and teaches you to show gratitude for everything you have, no matter how little,” he added. “Our job as adults is to empower children so they can resist the temptation to let victimhood tear them down,” he adds.

The center’s director regrets that both strict teachers and parents are seen as the “bad guys.” “It earned me the title of toughest director in the UK.” People don’t say that in a nice way; They criticize me because they believe that allowing children to take personal responsibility and holding them accountable is bad manners. The taboo is that they think you’re bad if you keep them in line. Unfortunately, I think that’s our culture,” he concludes.

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