Free Schools, and their freedom to make the kinds of rules that might not find favour throughout the education world, have come back into the news after a letter from the deputy head teacher at one of them fetched up at the Daily Mail. Michaela Community School, in North-West London, is headed by Katharine Birbalsingh, a favourite of former Education Secretary Michael “Oiky” Gove.
More less than totally grown-up analysis from Tobes
The letter read “The deadline for this term's lunch payments was 1st June 2016. You are now one week over due [sic] … You are currently £75 overdue. If this full amount is not received within this week your child will be placed into Lunch Isolation … They will receive a Sandwich [sic] and piece of fruit only. They will spend the entire sixty minutes [sic] period in lunch isolation. Only when the entire outstanding sum is paid in full will they be allowed into family lunch with their classmates”. “Entire” and “in full” together. Must try harder.
So what did Ms Birbalsingh have to say to that? “Miss Birbalsingh admitted that she and Miss Kelly [the parent] 'did not see eye to eye’”. She discussed her dealings with parents with someone from the Daily Mail. Ri-i-ight. She also “said criticism of the school’s policies such as the lunch isolation sprang from ‘middle-class liberal guilt’”.
So what did Free School enthusiast Toby Young have to say about Ms Birbalsingh and her “zero tolerance” disciplinary methods? Would he exercise discretion, perhaps keeping schtum for once, leaving it to Michaela Community School to deal with the press and the education establishment? But Tobes cannot bear to do such a thing: for him, anyone running a Free School who has the Gove seal of approval is automatically right.
Thus when Ms Birbalsingh and pundit John McTernan were the target of adverse Twitter comment, Tobes stood firm and declared “I'm proud to live in the same country as both of them. They're the best of British”. But still the criticism kept on coming, with one Tweeter asserting “Free schools not required to treat the children as humans @toadmeister must be proud what he [and] his like have achieved”.
Fighting talk for Tobes! What say he? “I wish I could claim some of the credit for Michaela. It's one of the best schools in the country”. It is? Have there been any exam results we can see, which will bear out this claim? Well, no there aren’t, as Michaela Community School has only been established since 2014, so (for instance) GCSE results are still some way off. Perhaps there has been one of those Ofsted visits?
Sadly, no there hasn’t, not yet. So Toby Young, self-proclaimed expert on education matters, says Michaela Community School is “one of the best schools in the country” on the basis of no more information than the claims made by its deputy head (the one who wrote that less than totally grammatically correct letter), and the fact that the Tory Party thinks the head teacher is A Very Wonderful Person.
Then Toby Young wonders why he gets nicknamed Captain Bellend. What a trouper.