Five Years On.

This post is just a short personal reflection on the fact that it’s now five years since I left my last school. January 2017, my personal lowest point. Nobody had died – it wasn’t *that* bad – but the whole nightmare inspection scenario with all that comes before, during and after is so distorting; perspective is hard to find when you’re in the thick of it. To a great extent, I’ve put all that stuff behind me but I’d be lying if I said that I’d forgotten about it. On a recent podcast interview I did for the lovely More Than A Job team, they asked me about what happened and, to my surprise, I became quite emotional telling the story.. it still has that effect. (I capture more of this in an end of decade post: Ending the decade on a high. It’s been an education!)

Roll forward five years, I woke up this morning to see this:

I never take this stuff for granted so, yes, I was pretty chuffed! It’s a lovely way to kickstart the year and I’m pretty excited about what is to come. I’m booked up for school-based training until November, and with Walkthrus going well, Volume 3 nearing completion and various masterclasses events ready to go, I’m feeling nicely optimistic. I’ve found my groove, working within education, across multiple schools and colleges rather than one. I’m probably better at doing this work than anything else I’ve done before so it feels right, mixing working from home with travelling the country. I’ve enjoyed developing a new area of expertise around designing and embedding professional development and instructional coaching processes; working closely with Oliver Caviglioli and John Tomsett in this area is a real joy.

I wrote a blog post shortly before Covid struck about the differences I find working in different places – travelling around to see how different schools operate is endlessly fascinating. I love all the people you meet – hyper-enthusiastic Assistant Heads, deeply committed subject leads, charismatic teachers, the fiercely proud and courageous Headteachers. Our system is full of amazingly inspiring people and the most wonderful school communities. Every visit to Oldham College makes my heart sing – despite taking me four hours to get there; it’s just the most fabulously inclusive place, truly inspiring on many levels.

So, yes, I’m partly writing this to make myself feel good – it’s been a journey and it takes a while to stop feeling that you’re recovering from something and you’re just getting on with life. I’ve come a good long way from the days when an AET Trust leader cancelled the booking they’d made for me to talk at a Heads’ conference because they didn’t think my presence – as a public failure – would be giving the right message. (Yup, still bitter! 😂). It’s fair to say that a legacy of that difficult few months is that I have almost zero capacity to put up with aggro from anyone. On twitter I block and mute liberally – one strike and you’re out; anything snide, snipey, rude, inviting critique from others.. I’m just not interested and my life is much happier for it. Do I miss those people? Not a bit. Do I shut down debate at times? Sure – but only with a few stranger souls, online where nuance and empathy are often lost. I debate ideas vigorously with real people in real life all the time.

I definitely miss lots of things about working in a school – all those fabulous relationships, the sense of community, teaching itself…., building a team. I feel this every time I visit somewhere new. However, I’m also well aware that after teaching for 30 years, my time was up. I did my bit and I think it’s good for the profession as a whole, that teaching can lead to other things that still make a difference – even if they’ll never make as much difference as a teacher does.

During 2022, I’ll be celebrating 10 years of blogging. I actually thought that I’d slow down on purpose last year but there was such huge demand during the Spring lockdown periods that I got swept up again with the nerdy drug of the stats! Over 1.2 million views last year – a record for me by far. However, this year I definitely intend to blog less myself and read and promote more of other people’s work. Just yesterday I initiated a new hashtag #edublogshare and already I think this has promise. I’ve committed to doing some kind of monthly roundup of things that capture my attention… keep me to it!

More and more I feel that a useful role I can play is to help to give a platform to other people. The main way I’ve done this recently is via the curriculum masterclasses – here are the lovely people who contributed last year; we have more events lined up in 2022. The appetite for curriculum talk is fabulous.. I’ll be looking out for more people to invite, always with a view to keeping the range of voices diverse and grounded in the challenges faced in state schools.

The other thing that I’m excited about this year is the Mind the Gap podcast that I do with Emma Turner. I’ve learned so much from her about primary education, teacher development and life in general! We didn’t know what we were doing at first but we’ve found a bit of a groove – a fortnightly 45 minute chat with some people we find interesting. We were enjoying doing way before we found that some episodes have had over 1000 listeners via all the podcast platforms. We had no idea that many people would listen – but thanks very much if you are one of them. Here it is if you’re interested..

Bold School Leadership with Vic Goddard, Mind the Gap, Ep. 60 (S3E16) Mind the Gap: Making Education Work Across the Globe

In this episode of Mind The Gap, Tom and Emma are joined by Vic Goddard. The group discusses Vic’s position in British Education, particularly his role as a leader and a role model for head teachers and school leadership across the UK. Vic’s first foray into thought leadership was the BAFTA-nominated documentary series Educating Essex, a seven-part series following a group of GCSE students and the staff who teach them. Since then, Vic has continued as a thought leader in British education and provided opportunities for leadership connections.  Overall this episode highlights the strengths of bold leadership. In this case, bold does not mean brash or dominative; it means empathetic and caring, and open to different perspectives. Particularly in education, as this conversation shows, boldness in leadership can help students, teachers, and a community thrive.  About the participants:  Vic Goddard is the Principal of Passmores Academy and star of the BAFTA-nominated Channel 4 documentary Educating Essex. He is a proud South Londoner, having been raised on a council estate, then going on to train as a PE teacher and eventually becoming the nation's best-loved Headmaster thanks to his undeniable dedication to his school and the young people inside it. Follow Vic on Twitter @vicgoddard Tom Sherrington has worked in schools as a teacher and leader for 30 years and is now a consultant specializing in teacher development and curriculum & assessment planning. His books include Teaching WalkThrus, Rosenshine’s Principles in Action, and The Learning Rainforest Fieldbook. He regularly contributes to conferences and CPD sessions locally and nationally and is busy working in schools and colleges across the UK and around the world. Follow Tom on Twitter @teacherhead Emma Turner joined Discovery Schools Academy Trust as the Research and CPD lead after 20 years in primary teaching. She is the founder of ‘NewEd – Joyful CPD for early-career teachers,’ a not-for-profit approach to CPD to encourage positivity amongst the profession and help to retain teachers in post. Turner is the author of Be More Toddler: A Leadership Education From Our Little Learners,  Let’s Talk About Flex: Flipping the flexible working narrative for education, and Simplicitus: The Interconnected Primary Curriculum & Effective Subject Leadership. Follow Emma on Twitter @emma_turner75.Watch this episode on edCircuit. — Send in a voice message:
  1. Bold School Leadership with Vic Goddard, Mind the Gap, Ep. 60 (S3E16)
  2. Professional Learning Skills for Teachers with Jim Knight
  3. Meticulous Community Engagement with Sufian Sadiq, Mind the Gap, Ep. 58 (S3E14)
  4. Why Representation Matters with Aisha Thomas, Mind the Gap, Ep. 57 (S3E13)
  5. The Jigsaw Puzzle of Learning with Sarah Cottingham, Mind the Gap, Ep. 56 (S3E12)

So, five years on, things are good and hopefully I won’t feel a need to write this kind of post again. However, I still get regular messages from other people – usually Heads in MATs – who are in the process of being done over by our disgustingly cruel system of accountability by public humiliation. ( I have special level contempt for people who defend it). It’s horrible to see. My advice is always to take time to recover, to believe that there is life beyond; that it’s possible and important to find a place to work where you can be yourself without feeling constantly run into the ground. I’m well and truly out the other side now, looking forward to the next five years. Thanks to everyone who has supported me along the way – it means a great deal. I don’t have a school community or staffroom of my own but there are lots of people who go out of their way to make me feel part of theirs and that counts for a lot.


  1. I really enjoyed reading this – 3 years on from public humiliation and ritual blaming following a politically driven Ofsted judgement I can also now see the light.
    Many of your comments really resonate with me. I have started a new career in Executive Coaching and I really hope I can bring my 30+ years of education and headship to support and unleash the potential of existing leadership. Thank you for a timely reminder that there is another life beyond Headship.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Tom, Thank you for all you continue to do as a teacher, in its broadest sense. Apart from Sue Hammond, my inspirational headteacher for 17 years, you have been my most biggest influence despite never working for you! I’m a Deputy Head (Pastoral) feeling burnt out and done in -and the spectre of Ofsted looms large – but I just wanted to tell you what a difference you make. Best wishes for the new year. Charlotte


    Liked by 1 person

  3. So wonderful to read this and I have every admiration for a fellow Headteacher , who like me , has recovered and has found a fulfilling and exciting role . I still miss the daily interaction with students and staff , but I am happier in myself. Good luck in 2022 and beyond and I look forward to reading your posts , your blogs , your advice , your guidance and above all ….I look forward to you enabling and empowering educators to keep going.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Tom, what an absolutely beautifully written piece and one which you have clearly written from the soul. I particularly love your honesty about your zero capacity to put up with aggro from anyone. I experienced this and it took me a while to realise how important it was to do exactly as you do. I did 33 years in the classroom, more latterly working as a Senior Director of MFL for a large MAT, and like you my time was up. However, now I work for a global online company and I can share my experiences and those of others on a global scale which is how I see my final couple of years panning out and more than likely beyond.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It takes a very brave, committed and kind person to stay with teaching and leadership in education after being treated so badly by the system; I did, and still, respect you hugely. Be assured; your teaching lives on in us through your books, podcasts and above all your endless ability to see the positives in educating young people. Happy New Year.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. If I think about it, I can say that over the last few years, you have helped be become better teacher – I come away from every ‘Sherrington’ experience with a little more knowledge as well as motivation to do better. Be that dipping into one of your books or listening to your podcasts. In my mind you strike the right balance between knowledge and humility which is (as Twitter shows us all too plainly) is difficult to do. I think you, with a smallish number of others, have been instrumental in changing the online educational landscape for the better. I am chuffed that this ‘new’ life is working for you, long may it continue.


    • Thanks so much Richard. That’s a lovely comment. Very much appreciated. There are so many good people out there – and it’s great to be able to engage in new ways beyond working in one school.


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