Friday, October 08, 2010



In the UK, Katharine Birbalsingh, is a top schoolteacher.

She is the daughter of immigrant parents from the Caribbean.

She has recently said that bad behaviour and lack of discipline in UK schools is stopping teachers from getting on with teaching. (Deputy head who dared attack the State school system is sent home)

Birbalsingh, who teaches French, wrote about her experiences anonymously – in a blog that will be turned into a book, To Miss with Love.

She said (head wants to axe bad teachers and drive out the unions):

‘In schools and in society, we need high expectations, of everyone, even if you’re black, or live on a council estate...

‘We need to instil competition amongst the kids and help build their motivation by ensuring they’re not given everything and that they are held to account for what they do.

‘We have a situation where standards have been so dumbed down that even the children know it.

‘When I give them past exam papers to do from 1998, they groan and beg for a 2005 or 6 paper, because they know it’ll be easier.’

‘Exclusion quotas bind our headteachers, league tables have all of us pursuing targets and grades. Instead of teaching properly ... the ordinary child … is lost in a sea of bureaucracy handed down from the well meaning.’

Ranking children by ability was viewed as poisonous by teachers, she said, which meant that pupils ‘live in darkness, without any idea of how they compare to those around them, let alone to those who are educated in the private sector’.

She added: ‘Black underachievement is due in part to the chaos of our classrooms, and in part, to the accusation of racism.

‘If you keep telling teachers that they’re racist for trying to discipline black boys, and if you keep telling heads that they’re racist for trying to exclude black boys, in the end, the schools stop reprimanding these children.

‘Black children underachieve because of what the well-meaning liberal does to him.’

Miss Birbalsingh said the biggest problem in the system was the destruction of behavioural and academic standards.

‘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.’

Miss Birbalsingh said there was a conspiracy of silence in staffrooms because teachers were too afraid of being branded as failures if they admitted how bad the true picture was.

‘League tables tell you nothing about how good a school really is, just how good the school is at playing the system and picking the easier exams,’ she said.

‘I’d like to see bad teachers getting fired and heads given the powers to discipline children.’



Man in a Shed said...

I think the most telling thing here is the accusation of a conspiracy of silence over educational failure.

dayzero said...

"For if you [the rulers] suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded from this, but that you first make thieves [and outlaws] and then punish them."

Sir Thomas More (1478-1535), Utopia, Book 1

THanks for a great blog!


suraci said...

Meanwhile, of course, many UK schools now have combined forces cadet forces, well funded and with close links to the military.

subrosa said...


Schools in Scotland have had cadet forces for over 50 years. Of course they have close links to the military or they wouldn't be cadet forces would they?

They provide discipline and team work to youngsters who want to partake. Something wrong with that?

Macheath said...

Man in a Shed - As Miss Birbalsingh came close to finding out, there is not merely a conspiracy of silence but a determination within some schools to drive out staff who threaten to blow the whistle.

This week I posted on an experience of mine which illustrates well the points made here - apologies for self-publicising but it's too long to reproduce.

Anonymous said...

Here is an earlier, redacted, post of mine from the www that might be of interest.

Education is the key. It matters not how much money you throw at a problem; it is PEOPLE who have to solve it. Without teachers who WANT to teach, without a useable curriculum, no pupil will ever receive an education.

In the late 50's I had become acquainted-with some teachers at a nearby private school and thus realised the lads each had a personalised curriculum, tailored to what 'Daddy' did for a living, it expected they follow in his footsteps. This curriculum was ONE THIRD the size of the one we mere secondary-school boys had to do. Yet their curriculum was also approved for the GCSE exams we all had to take. We had to cram like buggery - sorry! - and only those with a good memory had a chance to cover most of it, to forget ALL of it the day after the exam (I arranged tests to illustrate this) as they hadn't actually had the time to LEARN anything.

The rich kids had a pass-rate of 98p/c, we 'only' managed 84p/c.

The headmaster of the private school admitted to being shouted-at by irate parents as to why their lovely little boy hadn't passed, "What do we pay you all this money for!" The inference was to 'fix it' so little Pontius DID pass the exam. Ahem. You work it out, but the words rhyme with 'BRIBES' and 'FORGE THE BLOODY EXAM PAPERS!

I 'borrowed' several of the rich kid's curriculums and exam papers (against inviting several of them up to London where I moonlighted at a theatre, promising them they would see Barbara Windsor NAKED) and showed them to my teachers, who were amazed. Via Mandy Rice Davies, who used to do a cabaret act at an exclusive female club in London, I met Maggie Thatcher (a member) who was going for MP, hoping to be Education Minister, and Maggie visited our school (Quernmore in Bromley) and joined my teachers up in London when they were up for a teachers-convention...

...all with my words ringing in their ears; "Our curriculum is not designed to educate us, it is designed to STUPIFY us".

And they all knew I was right.

The rich fix it so they have the odds in their favour, that they get their kids into the right schools, the right jobs, irrespective if the kid has the intelligence, drive or even interest in the job. Why they are screwing it up today. More and more often they find themselves in a position of not knowing what to do and get it wrong.

I would say my youthful views apply to the situation today. The current education system in Britain is contrived to stupify the pupil, not educate them.

But to paraphrase Mandy, "He would say that, wouldn't he."

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