A North London school run by ‘Britain’s strictest headmistress’ has once again been rated as outstanding by Ofsted. Michaela Community School in Wembley, which has faced criticism for its uncompromising approach to discipline, has been given the highest rating for the second time in succession.
Following its latest visit in May of this year, inspectors found the expectations put on pupils are “exceptionally high” at the Brent school, meaning they “rise to the challenges” set by teachers and “take their education seriously”.
The report, which was published on July 10, highlighted the “broad and exceptionally rich” curriculum, which it said prepares students exceptionally well for the next steps in their education.
Michaela’s is a secondary comprehensive school for boys and girls between ages 11 and 19. Its head teacher, Katharine Birbalsingh, has been dubbed ‘Britain’s strictest headmistress’ after an ITV documentary profiling the school revealed kids were punished for not making eye contact, forgetting to bring pencils and pulling funny faces.
Inspectors highlight that staff have an “uncompromising approach” to any behaviour or academic work which does not meet their expectations but pupils “are focused on learning and show resilience” when faced with demanding challenges.
The report also praises the leadership, with the school described as “well led and managed”. It adds: “Staff are proud and happy to work here. Leaders make sure that all staff feel valued and part of the school community [and] staff said that the strong sense of teamwork helps to make the workload manageable.”
Following an exchange with Labour MP Jess Phillips, where the school’s safeguarding policies were questioned, Ms Birbalsingh tweeted: “Incredibly, some still think it is justified to question our safeguarding at Michaela because of a silly mistaken tweet. It isn’t. Why do you think it is? Ofsted visited us just days before the Jess Phillips incident. They rated us Outstanding.”
Ms Birbalsingh has previously criticised Ofsted on Twitter for “making schools worse not better”. She claimed inspectors are “wildly different” and a school can be failed if one inspector has “a bee in his bonnet”. She added that head teachers are “distracted from doing what will improve their school” and should ignore Ofsted.