9 Lessons & Carols #2: The Parable of the Sower – Academies done right

There’s a problem with Academies.  The schools that have been notice to improve and end up being

Are you all fur coat and no knickers?

dragged kicking and screaming to an Academy Chain miss the point, rather helpfully Jesus addressed the matter ahead of the Great Gove.

The problem is that it is rather an unpalatable message.

In Summary, ‘Notice to Improve” means:

Your school is shit.

You work hard at the wrong things and nearly kill yourselves every day and you are still shit.

Applying Marginal gain theory when you are shit makes you slightly less shit.  It won’t fix the fact that you are shit in the first place.

You look for the next goat of many colours to put on, on top of all the other goats of many colours you already drag around and you never take any off, even though they conflict.

You are not the only problem. It’s the ground your School is built on.


Matthew 13 The Message (MSG) [Parts in brackets are embelished]

An OFSTED Story:

[The Grinch Spoke]

13 1-3 At about that same time [The Great Gove left Westminster and sat on the front bench]. In no time at all a crowd gathered along the [frontbench], forcing him to [make a statement] . Using the [front bench] as a pulpit, he addressed his [constituents], telling stories.

3-8 “What do you make of this? A [Secretary of State] planted [pedagogy]. As he scattered the [pedagogy], some of it fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel [of banality and niceness]; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the [unions]; as it came up, it was strangled by the [unions]. Some fell on [the middle class suburbs], and produced a [harvest of progress] beyond his wildest dreams.

9 “Are you listening to this? Really listening?”

Why Tell Stories?

10 The NCTL came up and asked [The Grinch], “Why do you tell stories?”

11-15 He replied, “You’ve been given insight into [Gove’s] kingdom. You know how it works. Not every [teacher] has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart and [sufficient intellect] for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness [or trace of preservationalism], any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the [teachers] toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it.

I don’t want [Kenneth Baker’s] forecast repeated all over again:

“Your ears are open but you don’t hear a thing.
Your eyes are awake but you don’t see a thing.
The [teachers] are blockheads!
They stick their fingers in their ears
so they won’t have to listen;
They screw their eyes shut
so they won’t have to look,
so they won’t have to deal with me face-to-face
and let me heal them.”

16-17 “But you have [Grinch]-blessed eyes—eyes that see! And [Grinch]-blessed ears—ears that hear! A lot of [Inspectors, headteachers and humble teachers] among them, would have given anything to see what you are seeing, to hear what you are hearing, but never had the chance.

The Meaning of the Harvest Story

18-19 “Study this story of the [Secretary of State] planting seed. When anyone hears news of the [Academy] and doesn’t take it in, it just remains on the surface, and so [Complacency, Niceness and Preservationism]  comes along and plucks it right out of that person’s heart. This is the [pedagogy] the farmer scatters on the road.

20-21 “The [pedagogy] cast in the gravel—this is the [teacher] who hears and instantly responds with enthusiasm and [inspiration – a worthless emotional reaction avoiding any need to change]. But there is no soil of character, and so when the emotions wear off and some [HMI] arrives, there is nothing to show for it.

22 “The [pedagogy] cast in the [Unions] is the [teacher] who hears the [Academy] news, but weeds of worry and illusions about getting more [pay and pension rights] and wanting everything under the sun strangle what was heard, and nothing comes of it.

23 “The [pedagogy] cast on good earth is the [teacher] who hears and takes in the News, and then produces a harvest beyond [OFSTED’s] wildest dreams.”

24-26 He told another story. “[Goves’s] kingdom is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. That night, while his [head teachers] were asleep, [complacency, niceness and preservationism] sowed thistles all through the wheat and slipped away before dawn. When the first green shoots appeared and the grain began to form, the thistles showed up, too.

27 “The [teachers] came to the [headteacher] and said, ‘[Boss], that was clean seed you planted, wasn’t it? Where did these thistles come from?’

28 “He answered, ‘[complacency, niceness and preservationism] did this.’

“The [teachers] asked, ‘Should we weed out the thistles?’

29-30 “He said, ‘No, if you weed the [poorly parented], you’ll pull up the [kids with a hope], too. Let them grow together until harvest time. Then I’ll instruct the [Assessors and Examiners]  to pull up the [poorly parented] and tie them in bundles for [NVQs], then gather the [kids with a hope] and [put them in for A* to C at GCSE].’”

31-32 Another story. “[Goves’s free school movement] is like a pine nut that a farmer plants. It is quite small as seeds go, but in the course of years it grows into a huge [academy chain], and [chief executives] build [profits] in it.”

33 Another story. “[Gove’s freeschool movement] is like yeast that a woman works into the dough for dozens of loaves of barley bread—and waits while the dough rises.”

34-35 All [The Grinch] did that day was tell stories—a long storytelling afternoon. His storytelling fulfilled the prophecy:

I will open my mouth and tell stories;
I will bring out into the open
things hidden since the world’s first day.
The Curtain of [Pedagogy and Curriculum].

36 [The Grinch] dismissed the congregation and went into the . His students came in and said, “Explain to us that story of the thistles in the field.”

37-39 So he explained. “The farmer who sows the pure seed is the [Pedagogy and Curriculum]. The field is the [minds of children], the pure seeds are the [middle class] of the kingdom, the thistles are [the apathetic and benefit scroungers] , and the enemy who sows them is the [Labour Party]. The harvest is the end of the age, the [inspection]. The harvest hands are [OFSTED].

40-43 “The picture of thistles pulled up and burned is a scene from the [Education Act]. The [Great Gove] will send his [HMI], weed out the [Schools causing Concern]  from his kingdom, pitch them in the trash, and be done with them. They are going to complain to high heaven, but nobody [in the parental population] is going to listen. At the same time, ripe, [bright children with middle class] lives will mature and adorn the [Civil Service and Professions].

“Are you listening to this? Really listening?

44 “[Goves’s] kingdom is like a [child] hidden in a [lower set] for years and then accidentally found by a [supply teacher]. The finder is ecstatic—what a find!—and proceeds to [do] everything he [can] to raise money and [send him to Eaton].

45-46 “Or, [Gove’s] kingdom is like a [headteacher] on the hunt for excellent pearls of [niceness]. Finding one that is [nice and shiny], he immediately [doubles everything his teachers do and adds in the pearl of niceness].

47-50 “Or, [Gove’s] kingdom is like a fishnet cast into the sea, catching all kinds of fish. When it is full, it is hauled onto the beach. The good fish are picked out and put into a [grammar school]; those unfit to eat are [abandoned to take their chances in the state system]. That’s how it will be when the [Inspection happens] . The [Academy Team] will come and cull the bad [teachers]and throw them in the garbage. There will be a lot of desperate complaining, but it won’t do any good.”

51 Jesus asked, “Are you starting to get a handle on all this?”

They answered, “Yes.”

52 He said, “Then you see how every [headteacher] well-trained in [Gove’s] kingdom is like the owner of a general store who can put his hands on anything you need, old or new, exactly when you need it.”

53-57 When [The Grinch] finished telling these stories, he left there, returned to his [cave and asked;

‘How in the name of “Zeus’s butthole” can we train teachers when, in many instances, they are ignored or apprenticed into complacency, niceness and preservationism from the second they leave their house of learning?’]


So are you still with me?



Here’s how to capitalise on forced Academisation:

Think sideways and constructively align your shit.  Face it – you are on stony ground, Frankie Valli had it right:


  1. Close and Re-open.
  2. Sack everyone & make them reapply for changed contracts. (This deals with the weeds.)
  3. Only have contracts lasting 3 years with measurable targets for renewal.
  4. Employ a compassionate head teacher who will walk over hot coals to achieve progress and improvement and accept that they will be sacked if they don’t deliver.
  5. Extend the school day.  The only way to mitigate against the stony ground is to keep the buggers in school (the fertile ground) longer. You don’t need to do more, just take your time and do it better.
  6. Insist the teachers take two weeks of their holiday and invest it in good quality CPD & performance analysis.  Insist every teacher applies an evidence based approach
  7. Ditch every system that does not deliver improvement.
  8. Refuse to hold onto anything simply for sentimental reasons.

In short, the Forced Academisation process is not a rebrand, it’s the Nuclear button.  A chance to clean room and reboot.  Take the kids out of the neighbourhood and give the little buggers a decent sense of what it feels like to be loved.  Then and only then will they achieve.

Make it so.


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