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Birbalsingh: The Strict Headteacher Prayer ‘Ban’ Issue

by John Richards

Katherine Birbalsingh was the subject of an excellent video interview recently on Unherd – do watch it:

[ED: This is a must watch video. It is quite long and has too many ads but she is my new personal heroine.]

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Khaled’s weekly posts.

The Best Headmistress: Katherine Birbalsingh

Katherine Birbalsingh runs the ‘strictest school in Britain’: Michaela Community School, a free school in London, and she is being taken to the High Court by a Muslim pupil.

Katherine’s school is rated by Ofsted as “outstanding” and it rivals the top-ranking English private schools for exam results. The intake of the school is multi-ethnic, as you would expect from this area of London.

Ms Birbalsingh has introduced a regime of neutrality towards racial and religious differences. Superficialities like skin colour and beliefs are played down, and bullying is heavily policed. She insists that all pupils should treat each other with equal respect and socialize together as members of one team – proud Michaela Community School pupils.

Many of her pupils are from low income families and are in receipt of free school meals. In the interests of integration, she has reduced cultural discrimination on the basis of dietary taboos by only providing vegetarian food, which no faith proscribes. The children serve each other at a multi seater table and clear up afterwards responsibly.

The ethos of the school is very academic – silence in the corridors, good relationships with staff, dedication to learning. There are no religious services – it has an exception to the anachronistic 1944 education Act that specifies all schools should have a morning assembly of a Christian character. It’s every parent’s dream school!

The Strict Headteacher Prayer ‘Ban’ Issue: The Court Case

So what has happened to bring about a court case?

Initially, a Muslim pupil asked for a prayer room. That request cannot be met because of the school’s building – there’s nowhere suitable – this is East London, space is tight. Katherine Birbalsingh explained that praying could take place in the playground.

So that actually happened for a while and a few more Muslim pupils joined in with some adopting the hijab. Then a pupil (almost certainly backed by adults) accused the school of religious discrimination and here we are…

This is not discrimination – prayer was not being banned. It was simply not possible to provide the privilege of inside accommodation. All pupils were, and are, being treated equally irrespective of race or religion.

Katherine is defending her position in the High Court, which, if it is successful and catches attention, could revise the law in UK schools! France already bans religion from its state schools – let’s be the next enlightened nation!

[ED: We will be following this case closely.]


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