9 Lessons & Carols #1: Best practice, the enemy of promise – false prophets and their goats of many colours

At the first One of ResearchEd conferences, I was privileged to listen to Frank Furedi speak about the concept of Best Practice and how it was used as a totalitarian device to browbeat the unthinking teacher.  He argued that the very concept of “Best Practice” simply meant “do more stupid stuff for longer and with more vigour, without abandoning any of the other stupid stuff you already do vigorously, which almost certainly lead to you doing more stupid stuff even more incompetently than you were doing before.”

This puts me in mind of a fusion of one of Aesop’s fables and a biblical piece of advice about wolves and sheep’s clothing which is Matthew Chapter 7 – this was supplied in the pedagogical masterpiece known as the King James Bible, provided for all schools by the Great Gove at the start of the revolution we all screwed up.  Im using the version in “The Message” which must have been written by a colleague following an AfL training session I was subjected to in 2004:


Being [NOT] Doing (paraphrased a touch) embellishments in the [ ]


13-14 “Don’t look for shortcuts to [Good or Outstanding]. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful [lesson] that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of teachers do. The way to [Good] —is vigorous and requires total attention.  [It requires teachers to be ruthless in their search for evidence based practice based on knowing what works, not just the SLT every member of staff.]

Simon Drew’s Goat of Many Colourssuccessful [lesson] that can be practiced in your spare time. [These are cloaks of convenience or shiny cloaks of many colours]. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to [success] is vigorous and requires total attention. [Not to mention intelligence and a ruthless pursuit of evidence based practice]

15-20 “Be wary of false [trainers’] who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who [trainers] are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine [thought] leader will never exploit* your emotions or your wallet. ……..These diseased trees with their bad apples deserve to be chopped down and burned.

21-23 “Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Afl,Afl,’ for instance—isn’t going to get you anywhere. What is required is serious [objective thinking]—doing [what works]. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up and saying, ‘[Inspector,] we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, spoke of WALT and WILF, our NCTL-sponsored projects had everyone talking, our three stars and fish wish were the envy of the LA’.  And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use them to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re [fired].’

24-25 “These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your work, DIY improvements to your standard of learning. They are foundational words, words to build a [school] on. If you work these words into your [pedagogy], you are like a smart [headteacher] who built his house [of learning] on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.

26-27 “But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a [lemming] who built his house of learning on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, he put on his various [shiny cloaks of convenience one on top of the other **] it collapsed like a house of cards.”

28-29 When Jesus concluded his address, the crowd burst into applause. They had never heard teaching like this. It was apparent that he was living everything he was saying—quite a contrast to their[ ] teachers! This was the best teaching they had ever heard. [From the hip – no holds barred – it was what worked]

*NB Exploit doesn’t mean they won’t empty your wallet.  It just means that the impact of their visit is measurable and sustainable, rather than just ‘inspiring’, which has been used enough times to describe various edutainment events and allows the unthinking teacher to live in the moment for the buzz, not to actually change anything at the foundation level of their house of learning.

**A note on the portage of coats of many colours.  If you wear to many, you cease to function as anything other than a bloated Mr Twinkie [Ghostbusters].


In Govian:  (From the KJV) Matthew 7v13-29


13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to Notice to Improve, and many there be which go in thereat: [like Lemmings, unthinking teachers bleating like sheep at the load they carrieth]

14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto [outstanding], and few there be that find it.

15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves [who seek out and feedeth their own egos and brands].

16 Ye shall know them by their fruits [outcomes]. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?[Can you see the impact or did they speaketh trite bollocks]

17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth the evil fruit known as notice to improve. 

18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire [of Academy Chains] .

20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

21 Not every one that saith unto me, Afl, WALT & WILF, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is HMI.

22 Many will say to me in that day, [Inspector, Inspector], have we not [prevaricated] in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful [shiny but ultimately pointless] works?

23 And then will HMI profess unto them, [You are a moron, apply for your own job.]

24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of Gove, and doeth them, HMI will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house [of learning] upon a rock:

25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house [of learning]; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock [of research informed pedagogy where teachers confidently knew what worked].

26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house [of learning] upon the sand:

27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house [of learning]; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

28 And it came to pass, when [Gove] had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:

29 For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

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