Britain's 'strictest headteacher' says children are born with original sin

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Katharine Birbalsingh has been labelled 'Britain's strictest headteacher' (Getty images)
Katharine Birbalsingh has been labelled 'Britain's strictest headteacher'. (Getty images)

Boris Johnson's social mobility tsar – once dubbed Britain's strictest headteacher – has defended herself after being criticised for saying that all children are born with "original sin". 

In response to a Tweet that read "We are all born 'bad'", Katharine Birbalsingh wrote: "Exactly. Original Sin.   

"Children need to be taught right from wrong and then habituated into choosing good over evil.   

"That requires love and constant correction from all the adults in their lives over YEARS.  

"Moral formation is a good thing."

However, the outspoken educator attracted an immediate backlash, facing criticism for implying that all children are born 'bad'.

Birbalsingh's tweet said children should be 'habituated into choosing good or evil' (Twitter)
Birbalsingh's tweet said children should be 'habituated into choosing good or evil' (Twitter)

MSP Neil Gray wrote: "This is the opposite of my world view. 

"Children are not born bad. Children are born good and I would suggest trauma, poverty, ACEs & negative influences of adults are what drive negative behaviour into adulthood. 

"We must nurture & protect our children not stigmatise them from birth."

Raj Unsworth, chair of the Multi Academy Trusts and a campaigner for equality in education, said: "Children are not born ‘bad’, they are a product of their environment. 

"Basic Christian teaching does not teach us children are born bad."

And human rights lawyer Professor Jessica Simor QC labelled Birbalsingh's comments "appalling".

The Michaela Community School promises a 'private school ethos with no fees' on its website (Google Street View)
The Michaela Community School promises a 'private school ethos with no fees' on its website. (Google Street View)

However, the headteacher defended her comments, writing: "Or maybe I meant human beings are flawed, not perfect. So we have to teach kids right from wrong."

Birbalsingh, the founder and head of Michaela Community School in north London, is notorious for her high expectations of student behaviour, proudly declaring that she is "doing it differently".

Year 7 pupils at her school are taught how to sit properly on a chair, how to walk to lessons quickly in single file, and how to concentrate on the teacher, to instil good behaviour as soon as they arrive. New students must keep their shirts tucked in and pick up crumbs from the floor after eating as part of a boot camp, which teaches pupils how to “behave in the Michaela way”.  

The 48-year-old first attracted attention in October 2010 when she criticised the British education system at the Conservative Party conference, speaking in support of the party's education policies. 

Referring to a "culture of excuses, of low standards... a sea of bureaucracy... and the chaos of our classrooms", the outspoken education expert told the conference: "My experience of teaching for over a decade in five different schools has convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt that the system is broken, because it keeps poor children poor."

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In January 2020, Birbalsingh said that children used the "race card" when in disputes with teachers, and warned parents to take their children's claims of "racism" with a pinch of salt when disciplined at school. She also claimed that young black students were being held back from success in school by teachers who "are scared of being called racist" if they discipline them.

This October she was made the chairwoman of the government’s Social Mobility Commission.

Accepting the role, she said: “From education, to early years in the home and onto the world of work, improving social mobility is more vital than ever, and I look forward to taking up this important role.

“My immediate priorities will include developing a sound evidence base from which change can flow.”

According to, original sin is the "Christian view of the nature of sin in which humanity has existed since the fall of man" and is the idea that all humans have the sin of Adam and Eve inside them.

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