The Learning Rainforest.


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Order here from Amazon.
I am delighted to announce that I have finished writing my book.  The manuscript is with John Catt publishers and it should be ready to buy from October 13th.  I’ve had the pleasure of working with Oliver Caviglioli who has produced various illustrations and chapter summaries.  He also designed the front cover.


The book is my attempt to capture everything I’ve learned about teaching over the last 30 years. Several of the ideas have previously featured on but most of it is new.  The Learning Rainforest metaphor is a vehicle for getting the ideas into shape. The three-part structure provides a framework for thinking about great teaching:

  • Establishing the conditions.
  • Building the knowledge structure
  • Exploring the possibilities.

Part 1 of the book runs through the various elements of my professional journey that have shaped my thinking leading to the metaphor.

Part 2 consists of three chapters that each contain 20 practical ideas or strategies for teaching in Learning Rainforest style in practice.

Part 1: The Learning Rainforest Metaphor

  •  Chapter 1: My Rainforest Experience
  •  Chapter 2: The Progressive-Traditional Debate and the Trivium
  •  Chapter 3: The Curriculum Debate
  •  Chapter 4: What does the research say?
  •  Chapter 5: How does assessment work?
  •  Chapter 6: Managing the Learning Rainforest

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Some of the chapter summaries.
Part 2: The Learning Rainforest In Practice.

  •  Chapter 7: Establishing the Conditions C1- C20
  •  Chapter 8: Building the Knowledge Structure K1-K20
  •  Chapter 9: Exploring the Possibilities P1-P20

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60 ideas for great teaching.
The design of the book makes it easy to read separate chapters on the particular themes and to dip into the 60 strategies.  You could also read it cover to cover.  Hopefully it works both ways.

My whole website is about to be fully upgraded.  When that happens there will be place where you can discuss the book and leave comments.

It’s been an exciting process pulling all my thoughts together, re-reading all the books and articles that are referenced. I can’t wait to get the book out there.

Huge thanks to everyone who is supporting behind the scenes…it’s big team effort. We are nearly there.  I am thrilled already received the following comments for publication in the book:

Comments on The Learning Rainforest

‘What is truly astonishing about this book is the amount of distilled wisdom packed into it. It combines a huge amount of significant research with decades of Tom’s own invaluable experience of working at the chalk-face to form a coherent, practical and thought provoking book that will be an indispensable guide for years to come. Simply put, this is the book I wish I had read when I started teaching.”

Carl Hendrick, Head of Research, Wellington College


This book is packed full of practical wisdom about classroom teaching. Tom Sherrington draws upon his own wide ranging experience from his career as a teacher, adding reflective insight as a prolific blogger and educational thinker. The content includes presentation of research-informed pedagogy gained from the world of cognitive science successfully combined with down-to-earth examples of how research theory can achieve powerful impact within the busy classroom. Written in an entertaining style using the extended metaphor of a ‘managed rainforest’ this book provides a useful and compelling read for anyone interested in education.

Dame Alison Peacock, Chief Executive, Chartered College of Teaching


Tom Sherrington takes the metaphor of the forest to shape his arguments about practice and in doing so, helps the reader to get purchase on some really important ideas. ‘The Learning Forest’ is a piece of work underpinned by humility – nothing ever goes quite to plan. Well, that’s a relief, because I thought it was just me. Tom uses the personal to explain the bigger picture and makes the case for humour, compassion and heart being at the centre of our work. Tom has managed to balance the big picture with detail, the theoretical with the practical, and has produced a work which everyone, at whatever stage in their career, will find invaluable.

Mary Myatt, education adviser, author of ‘High Challenge, Low Threat’ ‘Hopeful Schools’


In the time I have known Tom Sherrington – in person and online – I have learnt so much about pedagogy and classroom practice from his blogs and tweets. Now it’s a treat to have a compendium of his experience, wisdom and insights, all rooted in such an optimistic view about why great teaching matters. This is likely to be an indispensable book for classroom practitioners at all stages of their career.”

Geoff Barton | General Secretary, Association of School and College Leaders


I love the humility that comes through in the reflections of Tom’s personal experiences and find his find his thoughts and ideas insightful and highly optimistic about the profession and the art and craft of teaching. Reading it in my headteacher role, it feels as though Tom has articulated my truth – he talks to the challenges we face: balancing autonomy with routines, progress with tradition, maverick and creative personalities with compliance. He gives a beautiful articulation and drawing together of the concepts, ideas, philosophies and issues that head teachers like myself grapple with in order to achieve the best possible education for their students.

I like that he is not preaching a quick fix for great teaching but drawing together ‘the best of what has been thought and said’ in education to open up teachers’ minds to the creative flux of the learning rainforest! It’s like a Bill Bryson ‘short’ of everything teaching related! Part 2 is a ‘godsend’; the explanations and ideas within each strand (C, K, P) and the emphasis on mode A teaching is brilliant. It’s a great book; a ‘must read’ for all teachers.

Sam Gorse, Headteacher Turton High School, Bolton


This book is a big leap forward in transcending the sterile debates between traditionalists and progressives. Hacking through the undergrowth of academic research and passing fads, Tom takes his readers on a journey (through the rainforest) to the sunny uplands of classrooms in which powerful learning and rich experiences can flourish.

This is a great book to read for those who want to be better informed about the education debate today. Tom’s passion for great teaching shines through on every page. He is a great writer and a great thinker and one of the most perceptive and insightful analysers of the education system.

Tom’s gift is for getting beneath the arguments and bluster and making sense of complex issues, whether it is the curriculum, assessment or developments in brain science.

Fans of his blog will not be disappointed – fresh insights and clarity jump out of every page. Practical strategies give teachers a much-needed toolkit of workable practice. Whether you agree with every word here is not the point – this is a book that will get you thinking, reflecting, changing the way you teach, and questioning the very essence of effective teaching.”

Peter Hyman, Executive Headteacher, School 21


“This is a really sensible book. And if you think sensible is dull, then think again. Teachers have been thrashed by changing tides of policy and ideology for decades. They have been bamboozled and confused by consultants and theories trying to shape them into this fad and that. They are tired and what they need is a light. A sensible, balanced, well informed light. Tom’s book is that light for many teachers – especially for those in the secondary sector. It offers a way through the arguments and debates that sometimes polarise education, and in a clear, intelligent and open way, offers practical and thoughtful solutions.”

Debra Kidd, Author, Teacher, Teacher Trainer

‘Rainforests are wondrous places that teem with life and energy. Tom Sherrington’s rainforest is an equally fascinated spectacle, full of teaching ideas and insights for every teacher and school leader. As an avid reader of Tom’s blog, it is great to see his vision distilled into a complete book that I will no doubt return to again and again. Just as the rainforest is beautiful, Tom’s book is uniquely visual. Just as the rainforest has its dangers, Tom does not shirk from the difficult educational debates of our day. As much as we need to preserve our amazing rainforests, we should treasure this book and share Tom’s insights about teaching and learning far and wide.’

Alex Quigley Deputy Head, Director of Research, Huntington School, York

I have been privileged to have known Tom, and to have been able to discuss Education with him, since I began my first teaching job at Holland Park in the 1990s. While we have not always agreed, I have always hugely respected both his measured and thoughtful approach and his focus on the importance of seeing both the wood and the trees. In recent years, these same qualities have been evident to a much larger audience through both his blogging and his wider contributions to current educational debates.

I recently re-read Ron Heifetz’ argument that leaders must “get on the balcony above the dance floor … to see what is really happening” – one of my favourite leadership metaphors. In this great book, Tom takes us all both up to the canopy and down onto the rainforest floor.

Roo Stenning,​ Head of High School,  St Andrews International School, Bangkok

I found Tom’s book wise, balanced, practical, and grounded in research. I’m confident it will help teachers not only to choose the best guidance but to implement it and what’s more to coordinate it with other sounds ideas. It’s a compelling road map to building a successful school. 

Doug Lemov, author Teach Like A Champion and Reading Reconsidered.

Tom Sherrington is a rare thing- a head teacher who can write, not just elegantly, but intelligently. One would be valuable enough. Being capable of both make him and his work essential reading for school leaders everywhere. He also has the gift of not only a career full of experience, but the capacity to unpack his experience in such a way as to make it not just intelligible, but relevant. One of the reasons for this is that he embraces the complexity of the school leader’s role without losing sight of the overarching moral purposes to leadership. Rather than writing a book- as so many books on leadership are- of ‘here’s what I did and you should do it too,’ he assists the reader in developing their own journey through what may or may not work- and in what contexts. Accessible without being reductivist, intelligent without being opaque, this should be on the bookshelves of any school leader interested in reflecting on what they do. 

Tom Bennett Director of ResearchEd



  1. A fantastic read, written by a real teacher, in real classrooms. Tom Sherrington goes further than just stating what good practice is, he gives practical examples that have been tried and tested. This book is jam packed full of practical ideas, that would suit teachers at a variety of different stages in their career. The learning rainforest metaphor, encompasses all aspects of our school system and the importance that each one plays in sustaining a flourishing environment. The best part of this read, is the way Tom shapes our journey through the rainforest, in a way that causes us to stop and reflect on our own practice and what role we play in building and sustaining our own school’s rainforest.
    Ultimately, ‘the learning rainforest is for everyone’.

    Liked by 1 person

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