January 19, 2024 - 5:15pm

Katharine Birbalsingh is the founder and head teacher of Michaela Community School, a free school in London. Since opening in 2014 Michaela has become a lightning rod for the culture war around education, and Birbalsingh has replaced the “student-centred” approach of modern teaching with a no-tolerance code of behaviour.

And as it turns out, “the strictest school in Britain” seems to work. Michaela is rated by Ofsted as “outstanding” and rivals the top-ranking private schools in England for exam results. But this week, it was announced that Birbalsingh would have to defend Michaela’s ethos at the High Court, after she banned prayer at the school. A Muslim pupil claimed that the ban was discriminatory, and is seeking to have it overturned.

The case speaks to a wider battle in Britain over social cohesion and multiculturalism. In an exclusive interview, Katharine Birbalsingh joined UnHerd’s Freddie Sayers to talk about it.