Why would I bother writing reports when no one reads them, says new social mobility tsar


“Britain’s strictest headteacher” has accused the Social Mobility Commission of “wasting time” writing reports “no one reads” ahead of her appointment as chairman of the advisory group.

The Department for Education appointed Katharine Birbalsingh earlier this month following the resignation of Dame Martina Milburn last May.

Asked about her plans for the role by the women and equalities committee, Ms Birbalsingh, who attracted attention with her hardline approach while head of the Michaela Community School in London, said she would create podcasts and videos to promote the group’s message rather than reports that get “stuck on a website”.

She said: “While they have written lots of reports, it’s sad I think because those reports have just kind of been written up and nothing has really happened and that seems a bit of a waste to me.

“I would want to do some videos, podcasts and discussions that make it a bit more modern and accessible. I don’t like doing things that waste my time, so I don’t want to write lots of reports that just get stuck on a website. I don’t want to be churning out report after report that no one reads.”

‘They might even think of me as a bit of a risk’

The Social Mobility Commission, a non-governmental advisory body, aims to tackle child poverty in England and advocates that the circumstances of birth do not determine outcomes in life.

Ms Birbalsingh revealed she “had not heard” of the commission before applying and added that she would be “worried” over her appointment if she was in the Government, adding: “From the Government’s perspective, they have no idea what I think, what I am going to say, I can imagine that they might even think of me as a bit of a risk.” 

Ms Birbalsingh also unveiled a proposal to introduce a national campaign urging parents against giving toddlers tablets, saying it makes them less likely to take an interest in reading and adding that she would like the benefits of children being brought up without them to become “part of the national consciousness”.

She warned that 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”.