White guilt destroying kids – says ‘mean’ headmistress

by NINA NGUYEN – A FAMOUS British headmistress known for her rigorous enforcement of school rules has said “progressive” teaching is failing students. 

Katharine Birbalsingh, who has been called “Britain’s meanest headmistress,” said in a speech at the Centre for Independent Studies in Sydney last month that in Western countries such as Australia and Britain, “in order to get things right with teaching children, you have to go against the grain”. 

Disadvantaged students – those who come from minority backgrounds and poorer families – are the biggest victims of “progressive” teaching.
Katharine Birbalsingh

Ms Birbalsingh, an Indo-Guyanese Jamaican born in New Zealand, recalled a visit to an Australian school where Aboriginal students made up the majority of the student body.

The teachers, Ms Birbalsingh said, were playing guitars instead of teaching math or science because they had the view that “these kids aren’t going to really amount to much”.


“Let’s have fun while we can. Let’s sing some songs and let them enjoy life,” she was told.

Responding to criticism that she is “mean”, Ms Birbalsingh said that in her view, “what is actually mean is allowing a child off all the time, never giving him a detention”.

“Doesn’t matter if you haven’t done your homework, doesn’t matter if you can’t sit on a chair. After all, you come from a poor background. So I’m going to forgive you this, and I’m going to let you go through school, and I’m going to sing some songs with you rather than push through with the maths and English.”

“Then when you leave, you’re going to be functionally illiterate and functionally enumerate for the rest of your life. That’s what’s mean, right?

“That is mean – and they call it compassion in the moment. That’s the thing that we need people to understand – ultimately that being compassionate with a child, caring and loving a child means holding the line.”

The educator argued that disadvantaged students – those who come from minority backgrounds and poorer families – are the biggest victims of progressive teaching because they’re dependent entirely on the school and their teachers.

On the other hand, for children from a higher socio-economic background, their family can fill in the gap by taking them to museums on the weekend, travelling to various places, or having conversations about issues and the politics of the day.

“And if their teachers, through what they believe to be compassion, are constantly letting that child down by not holding them to account, that child has nowhere to go. They end up in prison, on welfare, or in some dead-end job.

“Then we say, ‘Well, they were poor. What else could they do?’”

Australia has been identified to have a problematic situation in terms of student behaviour. According to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) index of disciplinary climate, the Australian school system ranks 70 out of 77 in classroom discipline.

Two in five students said their classmates don’t listen to what their teachers say, while nearly 50 per cent reported that most or all lessons are noisy and disorderly.

Australia’s education outcomes have also been trending downwards for decades, with the 2018 PISA results showing that students had fallen one school year behind in maths and almost a full year behind in reading and science compared to those in 2000.


“Data from the OECD shows that performance of Australian school students in reading and maths – both compared to other countries and to our own performance over time – is going backwards,” the CEO of the Grattan Institute, Danielle Wood, told the Jobs Summit in September.

The British headmistress further noted that racial identity politics is further holding teachers back from better educating disadvantaged children.

Ms Birbalsingh argued that teachers of colour like her “don’t carry the guilt that white people carry for feeling so uncomfortable about their privilege that they can’t possibly hold a brown child to account”.

“They won’t put a brown child in detention because, ‘I’m rich or I’m white and I feel uncomfortable so I can’t do this”. But who loses out in the end? The brown poor child who is not held to account.”

She urged teachers to “see beyond the guilt that is forced on us,” arguing that letting the child off the hook was “actually what is racist in that moment. You are letting certain children down because you feel guilty about your own privilege.”


“We have failed them because, in the moment, we feel so uncomfortable about doing the right thing.”

The school in Britain that Birbalsingh founded, the Michaela Community School near Wembley, in 2022 topped the GCSE Progress 8 scores, which measures how much progress each student has made through their secondary schooling.

The school’s overall rating of 2.27 means that a student attending Michaela, on average, ends up more than two grades higher than they would’ve done had they been at another school.

Ms Birbalsingh said the main factors behind her school’s success has been “traditional values, traditional discipline and traditional teaching”.

“Every year, we send our few off to Cambridge and to Oxford, but it’s not just that,” she said in her Sydney speech.

“We’ve also got other kids who might become plumbers and hairdressers and so on, but they turn up on time. They know how to stand up and how to sit up straight. They know how to bring their equipment. They know how to say good morning and good afternoon, Sir, and Miss.”


“As they walk down the corridors, they are happy, and this is the point. You are happy when you are successful. You are happy when you know who you are and what you can deliver.”
“We expect children to be polite. We expect them to go the extra mile to help someone else out.

“If in the canteen, a child drops a plate in a normal inner city school, all the kids start shouting and banging on the table. That is the kind of thing they do. Our kids, if somebody drops a plate, five or six of them run to help them pick it up the food from the floor.”PC

Nina Nguyen

MAIN PHOTOGRAPH:  Katherine Birbalsingh (courtesy The Epoch Times)
RE-PUBLISHED: This article was originally published by The Epoch Times on December 11, 2022. Re-used with permission.

1 thought on “White guilt destroying kids – says ‘mean’ headmistress

  1. Excellent article that will receive no mainstream commentary
    Love is not love it’s cowardice, tough love is love

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