Controversial blogger is a hit with pupils

Katharine Birbalsingh, right, with Alice Hunter (left), 16 and Elizabeth Maclennan, 17
Katharine Birbalsingh, right, with Alice Hunter (left), 16 and Elizabeth Maclennan, 17

From broken bones to new beginnings

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Controversial teacher and blogger Katharine Birbalsingh, famed for speaking out at the 2010 Tory Party conference, won admirers at Portsmouth High School.

The 37-year-old blogger, who was forced out of her school in south London after criticising the state of British education, was a clear hit at the independent girls’ school which she visited to give a talk about ‘what makes a good teacher’.

Alice Hunter, 16, said: ‘After all the press that Katharine Birbalsingh had received, I was unsure what to expect, but after the first few minutes I found her engaging and inspiring.

‘I was lucky enough to give her a tour round school and she discussed with me what career path I wanted to follow and she encouraged me to follow what I wanted to do and to have confidence.’

Natasha Twine, 17, added: ‘I think a good teacher is someone who puts in the extra effort and goes further than what the syllabus says they have to teach.

‘They answer questions in as much detail as they can and allow time for open discussion to give students a chance to really explore their interests.

‘A good teacher is passionate about what they teach and is always aiming to build the same enthusiasm in their students as they have for their subject.

‘I think it’s hugely important that people such as Katharine spread the stories of their experiences. Her enthusiastic anecdotes and passionate views made her a very engaging speaker.’

Ms Birbalsingh praised the Southsea independent girls’ school for ‘examples of excellent practice’.

She said: ‘I strongly believe that the current education system does not encourage pupils to take responsibility for their own learning.

‘Rather it encourages them to believe that all the effort should be made by the teacher, to maintain discipline, to engage and even to entertain the class.

‘I’ve seen some examples of excellent practice on my visit to Portsmouth High School, where the pupils seem to be committed and dedicated to their own learning and where teachers are seen to teach and the pupils listen.’