At Michaela, which hasn’t been going long enough for pupils to get to GCSE, the children read classic literature including Shakespeare, Homer and Sophocles. I saw a class being taught to analyse Bach’s musical notation. Chronological and cumulative knowledge of history and literature, along with daily quizzes and other regular tests, ensures pupils know, understand and remember.
Birbalsingh also grasps that for education to happen something else needs to be in place. When the bell goes, the whole school files between classes in total silence, or chanting in unison Kipling’s poem If. In lessons, there is silence other than the teacher talking and engaging with pupils asking questions. Every so often, at the teacher’s signal, the children all fold their arms, a manoeuvre to aid attention and concentration.
Some adult visitors recoil at all this. “Boot camp,” they mutter. They think discipline is oppressive. They just don’t get it. For this is a happy school.
To read my whole Times column (£), please click here.