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3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 1 March 2011
What a great book! As someone who used to teach in the state school system in a very challenging school in South London that received a "good" from Ofsted I recognized all the characters - both kids and adults - and the situations. Snuffy's relationships with the various kids reminds me of what the best teachers do i.e. have the highest expectations combined with energy,enthusiasm, empathy and a bloody-minded determination to make a difference. Reading this made me remember but why I left teaching (I didn't have the energy any more for the fight) and why I loved it so much. Everyone should read this book!
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on 28 March 2011
I don't normally write reviews on Amazon, but this book is something else.

I first heard about Katherine Birbalsingh when a friend pointed me to a video of her addressing the Conservative Party conference in the Autumn of 2010. I was absolutely gripped by her performance on stage, highlighting for us all the major problems that the British state sector schooling system faces at the start of the 21st Century. Having seen and experienced schooling in Britain, Central Europe, South American and India, I resonated with many of the concerns she raised.

On picking up "To Miss", Katherine's concern for the young people in her care continued to be communicated to me as page by page I read of how our children struggle in a system that is doctrinally driven by the left at the expense of the next generation's future. Herself a former Marxist, Katherine exposes the way that discipline and respect are systematically degraded; a state-sector education system that churns out school-leavers who find it hard to know what their place in society whilst their teachers are too busy meeting meaningless OFSTED criteria and being undermined in disciplining ill-behaviour to provide a consistent first-class education.

Is there a reason beyond simply money why private schools produce a higher proportion of A-stars and red-brick university places then the state sector? Is there an identifiable but viciously denied rotten core to our local authority school system that leads so many to fail and a highly capable education professional to be de facto sacked for daring to whistle-blow the truth? Is there a reason that numerous teachers and left-wing agitators have slammed this book, a reason that is far less to do with Katherine sharing her class-room experiences in a candid manner and far more to do with the way that she gets right to the bone of the ideological, educational and administrative problems in our local comprehensives?

Get a copy yourself and decide.
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I was drawn to this after reading extracts in The Sunday Times. I felt compelled to buy the book out of a sense of solidarity with the author, a brave teacher who has been shunned for speaking out about failings in the school system. Not just the school system, because the problems faced by the teachers and students in To Miss With Love are bound up with trouble outside the school gates. Ghetto violence, petty crime, broken homes, racial prejudices among the myriad communities in London, families with no clue about parenting, etc.

If that all starts to sound grim and polemical, don't worry. This book is full of humour, full of courage and steely resolve and there are happy outcomes along the way to bolster the faith of the teachers at Ordinary School. I could hardly bear to put it down, every diary entry providing another surprise. Makes me feel very lucky I didn't have to go to a school like that, and very thankful that there are teachers like Snuffy willing to battle on out of love for all the kids.

I hope Ms Birbalsingh goes on to spearhead a revival in her profession, but it won't happen without a major sociological make-over.

Everyone's gonna be talking about this one so read it once and for all.
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on 12 March 2011
This is a fantastic book, one that completely relates to my time teaching in a school in East London. It captures all the good things about teaching - the excitement, the thrill of seeing kids achieve things they didn't think possible, the energy that buzzes round a productive classroom. But it also captures all the bad things - the draining workload, the sapping battles over behaviour, the frustration of low-level disruption, the constant lecturing by overpaid consultants who haven't been inside a classroom since 1971, the sense that none of the pupils ever really understand the line between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, the way we weaken our subject in order to make it 'accessible'.

I have long thought that the general public would be shocked if they could see the standards of behaviour that are classed as normal (or indeed, Ofsted 'good') in our schools. Read this book to get an idea of what really happens in the classroom. Of course behaviour isn't like this in every state school, but from conversations I've had with colleagues over the years, it's like it in a hell of a lot more schools than the nay-sayers would have you believe. Nearly every event in this book is similar to one that's happened to me, or to a close colleague. If we keep denying this, things will never improve. Katharine Birbalsingh deserves a medal for writing this book and exposing what goes on in so many of our schools.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 11 March 2011
Ignore the nay-sayers - this honest account has the unmistakable ring of truth to it. It is a must read for anybody in the education services or thinking of going into the educational services. For that matter, it is a must read for anybody who cares about the future of our country. It is simply written yet moving and insightful. The author doesn't pretend she has any answers, she just sets out the problems. I do hope somebody furnishes the powers that be with a copy and I hope they read it. Highly recommended.
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on 6 March 2011
I have followed "To Miss With Love" as a blog for quite some time. In my opinion the author's love of her charges always shone out like a beacon, as did her frustration at not being able to do too much about it.

I am now reading the book, and have to confess I had moist eyes several times, even though only at p 10. I have dropped everything else to finish it.

That some reviewers are attacking the book is, sadly, no surprise. Katharine B has "told" - she has sneaked the truth which so many have spent so much time (and our taxpayers' money) hiding. I don't suppose that both negative reviews here feature the word "simplistic" is anything but a pure coincidence ....

Alan Douglas

Update. I have now read the whole book, and feel both elated and sad. Elated because in discussing the area so frankly (and it having cost the author her job) Katharine has begun a nationwide debate about what the problem actually IS, which ought to lead to attempts to formulate solutions to the existing problems in some (or most ?)of our schools, and to having those ideas put into effect. Any change would have to be for the better.

Sad because Katharine's book became a very close part of my live, and I feel somewhat bereft in not having it as my daily companion.

Thank you Katharine, for the book AND for speaking out.

Alan Douglas
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on 18 July 2016
At last some clear ideas on what needs to change. I have read other similar stories of woe on the state of state education in this country but this was the first where I agreed with some ideas for solutions. The fact that the teaching profession appear to have attacked the author's position comes as no surprise to me and I say that very sadly. Very sadly.

Education matters but we need to start with the teachers.
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on 29 March 2011
Katherine has managed to pen so poignantly what wrong with the state school system. Her points are based on common sense and it's just a wonder how things have got to where it has. I couldn't put the book down. Well done Katherine.
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on 27 February 2011
Having read the extracts of this book in the times I will be buying it as soon as it comes out.
I think the real horror story is how the so called progressive left wing teaching 'profession' are letting children down. To my mind the teaching unions should be banned from schools they are in effect a guild more interested in protecting the generous pensions and working conditions than about what is best for teachers, schools or kids.. What has happened to the author since she told the truth is something akin to communist russia.

The author should be making policy for the dept of education.
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VINE VOICEon 12 March 2011
Ever since Jean Jacque Rousseau wrote Emile, romantics of every stripe have cherished his vision of a world where children learn 'naturally', following their own interests rather than those imposed by society. And of course it is very appealing--the notion that we should all be able to do exactly as our impulses dictate attracts utopians everywhere. The real world is full of cruelty and compulsion--but why not build a New Jerusalem where children will not be corrupted by the evil legacy of European culture?

Unfortunately, human nature is not really like that. Anyone who has had children or taught them knows that they can be cruel without any adult prompting. And as Katherine Birbalsingh illustrates so clearly, our progressive education fantasies are imposed from above by compulsion. There's no other word for it. I've participated in debates with some of our leading education gurus, and they make no bones about it: teachers have to do as they are told. Of course, they don't put it so indelicately, but that's what it amounts to. And that includes insane directives which effectively put kids in charge of the classroom. For instance, when schools hire new teachers, pupils participate in choosing them. If a pupil thinks a lesson is boring, he can have the teacher dragged into the head's office. I kid you not--it's that bad.

This book is brilliantly written, and it is so compelling that it could be a real game-changer. Kids want order, they want competition, and they want teachers who have enough confidence in themselves so that they are not always truckling to bullies --be they other pupils, or the educational gurus who dictate every minute of their day.
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