Towards an Improved School System in England: Facing the Challenges of Inequality and Woke Culture

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Towards an Improved School System in England: Facing the Challenges of Inequality and Woke Culture

21st January 2021 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

2020 marked a testing year for the English education system. Over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, there have been concerns that exam cancellations and the shift towards greater virtual learning, carries the risk of widening existing social and economic inequalities in England. In addition to this, cultural fault-lines have emerged over the content and structure of the English state-school curriculum. While some have argued for the “decolonisation” of teaching materials which are currently considered to be unrepresentative of England’s demographic diversity, others have raised grievances over the perceived growing influence of controversial critical racial-justice theories in the sphere of schooling.

What are the main strengths and weaknesses of England’s current school system? To what extent do divisive ideologies feature in the teaching materials of English state schools? And what are the core principles which make for a wholesome educational experience for schoolchildren in England? To get to the bottom of such questions, the Henry Jackson Society is delighted to invite you to our online event: “Towards an Improved School System in England: Facing the Challenges of Inequality and Woke Culture”.



Katharine Birbalsingh is Headmistress and co-founder of Michaela Community School in Wembley, London. Michaela is known for its tough-love behaviour systems, knowledge-driven curriculum, and teaching of kindness and gratitude. In 2017, OFSTED graded the school as ‘Outstanding’ in every category. Katharine read Philosophy and Modern Languages at The University of Oxford, and has always taught in inner-London. She has made numerous appearances on television and radio, and has written for several UK publications, including The Telegraph and The Spectator. As well as authoring two books of her own, Katharine has also edited the recently published book The Power of Culture (The Michaela Way).
Tarjinder Gill is an experienced primary school teacher who has worked in areas of high deprivation in London, the Midlands and Norfolk. Having an MPhil in Political Science, she is interested in education policy as well as broader cultural issues relating to ethnicity and social class in the UK. Tarjinder is co-editor of the All in Britain website which publishes blogs to promote fresh thinking and ideas on ethnic identity in Britain. She is also a member of “Don’t Divide Us” (DDU), which campaigns against the spreading of divisive identitarian ideologies.
Mark Lehain is the Director of Campaign for Common Sense, an organisation that seeks to bring together those who wish to engage in open discussions over socially-sensitive topics. He campaigned to open, and was Principal of, a new state secondary school in Bedford. Mark also led the “Parents & Teachers for Excellence” group – a grassroots campaign encouraging schools across the system to adopt best practice in the areas of behaviour, knowledge-rich curricula, and rigorous assessments. He has written for a number of leading publications, such as The Telegraph and The Spectator.
Dr Rakib Ehsan is a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, sitting in both the Centre on Radicalisation and Terrorism (CRT) and Centre on Social and Political Risk (CSPR). Having traditionally voted for the Labour Party and currently a member of Prospect trade union, he has authored articles for outlets such as The Telegraph and Sp!ked on the British contemporary Left’s fraying bonds with traditional working-class communities. His research expertise includes race relations and community cohesion in the UK.

HJS were honoured to host three passionate and brilliant leaders in the education sector to discuss the wide range of challenges inequality and the rapid rise of Woke Culture poses to the education system and the teaching profession.

Chaired by HJS Research Fellow Rakib Ehsan, the conversation analysed the purpose of schools, the growing political polarisation in teacher training and its increasing impact on students as well as the growing prevalence of Critical Race Theory and the desperate need for a knowledge-based curriculum that teaches children to ‘work hard, be kind’.

Of particular value was the point made by the Director of Campaign for Common Sense, Mark Lehain, who pointed out that race-based ‘woke’ policies in schools are often in breach of existing legislation, such as the 1996 Equalities Act and the 2010 Education Act.


21st January 2021
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm


United Kingdom


Katharine Birbalsingh, Tarjinder Gill, Mark Lehain. Dr Rakib Ehsan


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