The Michaela Vision
Michaela Community School is one of the most successful and controversial state schools in England.
Setting up Michaela was a long but vital struggle. Back in 2010, there was a dominant set of assumptions about how education worked and it was unacceptable to question them. Children’s bad behaviour was routinely ignored, “good” teaching required group work so desks were all turned to face each other, children would be expected to lead their own learning while the teacher circulated the classroom trying to keep the children on task.
The result? One in five young people finished school without the minimum required numeracy and literacy levels to join the workplace. Sadly, the children who suffered the most were those from less advantaged backgrounds. In 2011, pupils eligible for free school meals performed 28% worse in their GCSEs than those not eligible.
We dared to reject what was happening in schools. In 2014, we opened Michaela so that children in Wembley could experience an education that champions traditional teaching methods with explicit instruction and a no-excuses behaviour policy that supports high academic expectations and a culture of personal responsibility.
Today, there has been a significant nationwide change in the way we approach education and Michaela has been at the forefront of that change. Many teachers and leaders have changed their mind about what works in schools. We have over 600 visitors at Michaela every year, most of whom visit because they hear how many people have shifted opinions about education having seen what we do and (mostly) what our children are capable of doing.
Click here to read more about how we teach ‘The Michaela Way’ and what makes us different.
“It truly is a privilege to work at Michaela, with such an incredible staff body and wonderful pupils. I would definitely encourage anyone, within education or not, to visit and see for themselves what young people are capable of.”
The Michaela Way
We question all the accepted wisdoms of the 21st century. This ranges from the way that we teach, how we deal with SEN pupils, our expectations of parents, our zero-tolerance attitude to bad behaviour and our high expectations of professional conduct (including dress and manners) at all times from both pupils and staff.
Michaela teachers work hard, but we do not waste time doing pointless tasks. Everything we do has impact on the lives of the children in our community. This motivates our teachers to stay at the school for many years.
“Michaela is unique; its culture of empowerment has certainly changed me as a person. I am more resilient, more grateful and happier than I have been in the entirety of my academic career so far.”
To join Michaela is to become part of a large family. Families rally round when times are tough. Families help each other out and are honest with each other. Every day, we eat a family lunch together with our pupils. We are always thinking hard about how we can become the best we can be for our colleagues, parents and pupils.
If you would like to visit us before applying click here.
The Michaela Myths
Still cautious about applying for a teaching position at Michaela?
Our newest teachers discuss some of the most common myths about working at Michaela:
1. Michaela is too strict for me
The best thing about teaching is working with children – they are hilarious. It is an honour to help shape the minds of young people and all good teachers enjoy building formative relationships with children. Understandably, no one would want to work in a school that is so strict that there is no room for fun or warmth.
At Michaela, pupils feel safe and happy because their teachers are in charge and the rules are clear and fair. Yes, we are strict but a strict behaviour policy alone is not enough. We do everything we can to show the children that we are on their side and that we care about them. We smile, we laugh, we have nicknames and in-jokes, we wear wigs and play table tennis. It is our duty to make Michaela a place of true joy for children to learn and grow.
“Michaela allows me to show off who I am to the kids even more and you can really joke around because you know they aren’t going to take advantage.”
2. Michaela teachers are superhuman
We pride ourselves on teaching a knowledge-rich curriculum, bursting with the best of what has been thought and said. Additionally, we promote Oxford and Cambridge and Russell Group universities to our pupils so that they come to imagine them as places where they could belong one day. Many of our teachers have top degrees from top universities but others have come to teaching through more diverse and less academic routes.
What makes us all great Michaela teachers? It is the passion we have for our subjects and the ability to bring lessons to life in front of children. Some of us are so fanatical about teaching that we choose to write blogs or talk at conferences, but most prefer to focus energies into developing their classroom practice. We share the attitude that no teacher is the finished article. Having weekly all-staff CPD sessions and subject-specific training allows us to be constantly improving.
3. All Michaela teachers think and act the same
We have a clear vision and set of values as a staff. We share many ideas around what works in the classroom and education more generally. That said, we certainly do not think the same about everything. What makes Michaela a vibrant, interesting place to work is the many diverging ideas and opinions around all sorts of things: politics, religion, patriotism, the list goes on. We often have guest speakers from contrasting schools of thought to challenge our own assumptions on various topics covered by mainstream media, education-related or not.
Fundamentally, we want our pupils to have lots of knowledge about the world so that they are able to think for themselves, question ideas and offer a new, diverse perspective. As teachers, we promote the same for ourselves.
4. Michaela has too many routines
Consistency is essential across the school. Children like consistency because it means they know how to behave and that they can rely on teachers (and that makes them feel safe). Behaviour is consistently good at Michaela because children and teachers know – and apply – the rules very well. Learning all the rules when joining any new school is a daunting task but at Michaela, our routines go even further than the behaviour policy.
Children know the routine for everything here: entering the classroom, talking to their partner, serving food at family lunch, reciting poetry, even playing basketball. This means the school day runs seamlessly for them and that they can feel successful at everything they do. That said, it is initially a big undertaking for new pupils and teachers alike. For this reason, we have a 7-day Boot Camp every September, and our newest teachers receive additional training and support throughout their first year or until the routines have become automatic.
5. Michaela pupils are robots
It is easy to assume, with all our rules and routines, that the children do not have much opportunity to show their personalities. However, the opposite is true. In many schools, peer pressure (and sometimes bullies) influences how children behave. That might stop them from putting their hand up to answer a question or going to chess club at lunchtime. Peer pressure might also push them to start wearing make-up early or being on their phone in lessons. When children are in charge, rather than caring adults, pupils might stop being their weird and wonderful selves and instead start trying to ‘fit in’. Worse, some pupils might be too scared to even do or say anything at all.
At Michaela, children are free to be children. Our classrooms are safe spaces where they can be themselves and no one will snigger or eye roll. We teach tolerance, kindness and respect and we see those virtues acted out every day. Difficult to believe? Come and see for yourselves.
“I am still astounded by the clarity and articulation with which our pupils speak, by their manners and by their knowledge. I look forward to each teaching day knowing that it will be exactly that: teachers teaching and pupils learning.”
Click here for more information on visits.