Boris Johnson a bad role model for children, says social mobility czar | Boris Johnson

The government’s social mobility czar has said she doesn’t think Boris Johnson is a good role model for children.

Katharine Birbalsingh, who was appointed chair of the Social Mobility Commission (SMC) in 2021, told Sky News that while she liked the prime minister, she didn’t think he was “professional enough”, adding that her personal life made her “raise an eyebrow”.

Birbalsingh, the headmistress of Michaela Community School in Wembley, who was recently the subject of a documentary called Britain’s Strict Headmistress, was asked if she thought Johnson was a good role model.

Catherine Birbalsingh. Photography: S Meddle/ITV/Rex/Shutterstock

She said, “No, I don’t think so. I wish it was, but it isn’t and it’s kind of sad. I love Boris, I don’t think he’s a bad guy you know, but I don’t know enough about what he does, but I don’t think he’s a good role model for kids.

When asked why she believed this, she said, “Her personal life, for example, raises an eyebrow at me. The other day I saw a picture of him on the subway and I looked at his hair and I thought, oh my God, we expect our kids to have professional looking hair.

“Now you might think that’s a little pedantic and that’s a little silly, but actually it’s not. It’s important to look professional and sometimes Boris looks professional, but sometimes it’s not professional enough for me. Put it that way.

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In her inaugural speech as SMC president, Birbalsingh called for a radical overhaul of what social mobility means, saying it shouldn’t just be about opening up elite pathways to the few.

She argued that widening access to college has “not always delivered the expected dividends”, although more than 80% of sixth form students at the school of which she is headmistress have gone on to colleges. Russell Group universities last year.

Responding to Birbalsingh’s comments, Schools Minister Robin Walker told Sky News she was “entitled to her opinion” but disagreed.

He said: “I actually think whoever is running this country is a role model – someone the kids can look up to. The Prime Minister has shown phenomenal resilience through the Covid pandemic and his leadership, and I think that is something children should learn in schools.

“He’s also a great communicator, and one of the things we try to teach in all of our schools is communication – literacy through speech and language. So there’s a lot to admire in that regard.

Rebecca R. Santistevan