New social mobility tsar urges parents not to give toddlers phonesOctober 20, 2021
New social mobility tsar Katharine Birbalsingh calls for campaign urging busy parents not to keep toddlers amused with mobile phones
- New social mobility tsar Katharine Birbalsingh renowned as tough headteacher
- She called for campaign against parents giving toddlers phones for amusement
- Ms Birbalsingh said using device made it harder for children to focus on reading
The government’s new social mobility tsar Katharine Birbalsingh today called for a national campaign to stop parents giving toddlers mobile phones.
Ms Birbalsingh, who developed a reputation as one of the country’s toughest headteachers, insisted the devices should be off limits.
But the comments, in evidence to MPs, could infuriate struggling parents who have to juggle work and other commitments with looking after their offspring.
Asked about what she wanted to achieve in her new role, Ms Birbalsingh told the Women and Equalities Committee: ‘My initial thoughts are that I would like national campaigns on things like phones and not giving them to your toddler.
Katharine Birbalsingh, who developed a reputation as one of the country’s toughest headteachers, insisted mobile phones should be off limits for toddlers
Ms Birbalsingh said giving young children phones makes it more difficult for them to engage in reading, because a ‘book that’s black and white and flat’ is less interesting than a tablet (file picture)
The rules at Michaela Community School
- Follow instructions the first time they are given
- Keep to correct uniform and wear it smartly, leaving electronic items, food, drink, gum, and anything else not needed for school, at home
- Speak at an appropriate volume
- Sit listening silently in the correct place, unless given permission otherwise
- School shoes should be black, flat and logo free. Trainers, boots, suede and logos are not allowed at school. Similarly, shoes that are considered to be trainer-like in appearance are not allowed. This ruling also applies to branded shoes.
- Hair will be in a conventional style. Hair styles that grow out instead of down, and therefore do not touch the collar, must look professional
- If a pupil attends school with a pattern shaved into their eyebrow, they will be banned from attending school until it grows back fully or the school will insist the entire eyebrow is shaved off
- Pupils in Year 7 to 11 must not wear any make-up whatsoever
- Nail varnish of any description, nail extensions and henna decorations are also forbidden
- No jewellery whatsoever except a plain and functional watch
- Michaela does not have a prayer room
‘I would love it if we could get to a point where, (it is considered) in the same way that we know that you should eat four or five fruit or vegetables in a day, or drink eight glasses of water a day.
‘We know this because the campaigning has been so clear, and it’s happened over time – years and years, it’s everywhere – it just becomes part of the national consciousness.
‘I would love it if things like ‘don’t give your child a phone’ were to become part of the national consciousness.’
She added that giving young children phones makes it more difficult for them to engage in reading, because a ‘book that’s black and white and flat’ is less interesting than a tablet which has ‘all sorts of flashing images and colours and adverts’.
Ms Birbalsingh has been dubbed a ‘tiger headmistress’, and is the founder and head of Michaela Community School in Brent, North London, where Year 7 pupils are taught how to sit properly on a chair.
New students are also shown how to walk to lessons quickly in single file and how to concentrate on the teacher, to instil good behaviour as soon as they arrive.
They are told to keep their shirts tucked in and to pick up crumbs from the floor after eating at a boot camp, which teaches pupils how to ‘behave in the Michaela way’.
She is taking over the role from Dame Martina Milburn, who resigned on May 5, 2020 – telling Boris Johnson the role needed expanding to effectively tackle the issue.
Ms Birbalsingh has been praised by Minister for Women & Equalities Liz Truss for maintaining ‘high standards’.
And she said she would use her new position to develop a society that ‘provides an equal chance for all’.
Ms Birbalsingh will remain the head of the school while on the commission.
In 2010, Ms Birbalsingh told delegates at a Tory party conference that educational standards have been ‘so dumbed down that even the teachers know it’ and that schools are bound by too many targets that prevent them from teaching properly.
She credits her father, who received an ‘old-fashioned British education in British Guyana’, with her success.
She has since spoken out against schools teaching about ‘white privilege’, saying it gives black British children the impression that the education system and society is pitted against them.
In June, she said teachers should avoid talking about race to students and stick to ‘teaching them maths and English’.
Ms Birbalsingh said the secret to success for a child of ‘any colour’ is to have a family that supports their education, makes them do their homework and will force them ‘off their phones’.
Earlier this year, Ms Birbalsingh also took a swipe at at ‘woke culture’ for ‘mercilessly attacking’ black conservatives who ‘dare to think for themselves’.
Taking aim at those behind the abuse of race report chairman Tony Sewell, Ms Birbalsingh accused ‘leftists’ of driving their own ‘cultural racism’ by attempting to shut down opposing views.
Dame Martina Milburn (left) resigned on May 5 last year – telling Boris Johnson (right) that the role needed expanding to tackle issues effectively
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