At Michaela Community School in London, teachers think differently, overturning many of the ideas that have become orthodoxy in English schools.
In this book, over 20 Michaela teachers explore controversial ideas that improve the lives of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. Michaela is blazing a trail in education, defying many of the received notions about what works best in schools.
Michaela teachers, from founders to classroom teachers to senior leaders, lead readers through different aspects of what makes Michaela unique. The school gets hundreds of visitors a year. So many ask: what's the secret? But the reality is that it isn't only one thing that makes Michaela work.
This book raises challenging questions for teachers and school leaders about how they see education.
How can we help new Year 7 pupils get their bearings in secondary school quickly? How do we teach pupils to remember rather than forget what they've learned? How do didactic teaching, drill and memorisation boost motivation and academic achievement? How do we get pupils to be considerate, kind and caring to each other? How do we make lunchtime a calm, happy time every day? How do we ensure new teachers are just as respected as veteran teachers? How can we ensure the weakest readers do the most reading rather than the least? How can we make sure all teachers love teaching in our schools, and want to stay in teaching? How can we prevent teachers from overworking and burning out? What do we do about parents that push back against the school's rules?
These questions cut to the core of how we educate and how we see the world.
“Michaela is an inspiration – a revolution in education – giving kids the knowledge, the grammar and the confidence to achieve anything in their lives.” Boris Johnson
“Katharine Birbalsingh and her team are inspirational teachers from whom we all have much to learn. This book is their testament and my gospel.” Michael Gove
“Michaela is a trailblazer for schools that walk every word they talk. Few schools would be so open about their methods and values, and here teachers and school leaders can find the blueprint of Michaela’s ambitions laid out in a series of fascinating personal accounts, written by the people who made it happen. This book, like the school itself, should catalyse debate across the UK about why and how we choose to teach our children.” Tom Bennett, Behaviour Advisor to the UK Department of Education, and founder of researchED
“This book explains how this iconoclastic Free School became unashamedly knowledge focused. You meet the pupils – they are happy, well behaved and incredibly knowledgeable. This school is driving social mobility every day.” Nick Gibb, Minister for School Standards
“This is an inspiring and thought-provoking read. The staff at Michaela have deconstructed English secondary education, and rebuilt it from the ground up, thinking only about what schools should do, rather than accepting what they usually do.” Andrew Old, teacher and blogger
“Michaela has only been around for a couple of years, but already it has changed the way many people think about education. This book explains how, and shows the incredible things that can be achieved by a small group of people with vision, energy and passion.” Daisy Christodoulou, Head of Assessment, Ark Schools
“They describe themselves as ‘tiger teachers’, giving poor children access to knowledge, rigour, testing and competition. As Wole Soyinka says “A tiger does not shout its tigritude, it acts.” Those of you who still believe that a knowledge rich curriculum is not for the likes of poor inner-city children, should read this book and repent of your sins.”
Dr Tony Sewell CBE, CEO, Generating Genius
“This collection of essays provides some fascinating insights into the Michaela world and what can be achieved with leadership, determination, and a willingness to challenge the status quo.” Dame Rachel de Souza, Chief Executive, Inspiration Trust
“My overwhelming impression on visiting Michaela was one of joy – joy in the teachers at being able to teach the subjects they love, unencumbered by bureaucratic irrelevance; and joy in the pupils, as secure knowledge gave them confidence, fluency and freedom in wholly new worlds. This is emancipatory education. I have rarely felt so optimistic about what state education might finally achieve for all.” Christine Counsell, Director of Education, The Inspiration Trust
“This book offers an insightful blend of evidence and personal testimony that is as compelling as it is heart-warming. Teachers at Michaela show a profound devotion to the children in their charge. One that views knowledge, high expectations and the privileging of community over the individual not as a form of restriction, but as a form of emancipation.” Carl Hendrick, Head of learning and research, Wellington College
“This book explains how the Michaela team are building a school which embodies a love of learning so consistently and effectively that it can be felt in every lesson, transition, and interaction. This book prompts its readers to re-assess the biggest questions facing our education system today.” Natasha Porter, CEO, Unlocked Graduates
“Full of life-affirming common sense which is tangibly helping liberate young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, enabling them to desist from the poverty of aspiration and thereby fulfil their potential, and in so doing get the best education – and preparation for life – possible.” Lindsay Johns, Writer, broadcaster and Head of Arts and Culture at Policy Exchange.
“This book should be banned. If a parent of a teenager gets hold of it, they’ll ask why their son or daughter’s school can’t be as good as Michaela. And the uncomfortable truth is, it can. Every school can.” Toby Young, Director, New Schools Network
“Love them or hate them – and there are plenty of people who do both – they bring something fresh and unique to the English schools system. And in this fascinating book, they set down exactly what they do and how they do it.” Jonathan Simons, Head of Education, Policy Exchange