The 2019 prize-giving ceremony was held on 25 June 2019 at the Bernard Jacobson Gallery once again. The prize was presented the prize to the winner, Katharine Birbalsingh, by the legendary Jeremy Paxman.
Birbalsingh, a headteacher, has been a thorn in the side of the educational establishment. She first spoke out publicly in 2010 about how the state education system fails poor children through lack of discipline, low standards and an emphasis on skills rather than knowledge. She faced a backlash from the educational establishment which led to her losing her job as Vice Principal of a South London school. After four years in the cold, in 2014 she founded the Michaela Community School in Brent ranked “outstanding” by Ofsted where her staff “reject all accepted wisdoms of the 21st century”.
The prize was presented by the renowned broadcaster and author, Jeremy Paxman, who anchored Newsnight for 25 years and currently fronts the BBC’s University Challenge. The prize-giving ceremony attracted an eclectic group of leading individuals from multiple fields including finance, business, law, the media, politics, the charitable sector, the arts, academia and dance music.
"I said what I believed to be the truth about how the education system keeps poor children poor and I am delighted to have won this wonderful prize in recognition for speaking out,” said Birbalsingh.
The prize, symbolised in the form of a stunning sculpture entitled the “Three Politicians”, was produced by the renowned pop artist, Mauro Perucchetti. The founder of the prize, Ali Miraj, 44, said, “We live in an era where meaningful discussion on a whole range of issues is being closed down. Katharine Birbalsingh had the courage to challenge the orthodoxy within the educational establishment on how to best teach children and put her career at risk in the process.” (You can read his speech here).
The Contrarian Prize is not backed by any large corporates or foundations. It is funded by a small number of private individuals who believe that recognising those that stand up for their beliefs and change the terms of the public discourse is of huge importance.
Please click onto any of the links below for the 2019 event: