Reflect on Wales RWC Team: Help Education Thrive; Who Said Sport and Education Don't Mix? Terry Mackie, Director of Educational Consultancy Empathi Cymru and a Former Head of School Improvement for Newport Council, Looks at the Lessons to Be Learned from Welsh Rugby

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), February 2, 2012 | Go to article overview

Reflect on Wales RWC Team: Help Education Thrive; Who Said Sport and Education Don't Mix? Terry Mackie, Director of Educational Consultancy Empathi Cymru and a Former Head of School Improvement for Newport Council, Looks at the Lessons to Be Learned from Welsh Rugby


Byline: Terry Mackie

ON the nervous eve of another Six Nations, let us cast our minds back to recent days of Welsh organisation and skills that won us universal plaudits.

The Rugby World Cup (RWC) was a triumph for Wales and a disappointment (tinged with fiasco in England's case) for the other countries of the UK. This is the inverse of the Pisa (Programme for International Student Assessment) World Cup, where Wales currently holds the wooden spoon.

Nobody in Wales will give a hooker's cuss for Pisa come Sunday afternoon but today we can pose an intriguing question arising from this contrast between rugby and educational standards: can Welsh rugby teach its education services anything? I believe there are at least three lessons that the sport can deliver to government.

Firstly (or up front as the coaches say), world-class leadership counts. Warren Gatland, the Kiwi, and Shaun Edwards, of England rugby league fame, were recruited from the best on the planet. The WRU have stuck with them through thick and thin. Nationality was irrelevant in the quest for continuous system leadership. Gatland's predecessors include two Kiwis who coached the All Blacks to World Cup victory. If you want the best outcomes, you need the best leaders.

After brief flirtations, Wales has retreated into a nationalistic shell in education leadership at government level. Under pressure, we lowered our sights and reverted to type and tribe (the RFU Martin Johnson approach, we can call that), trawling only from our own shallow pool. There has been precious little continuity and we have stopped looking outwards.

Consider, then, the cessation of school leadership training. The Wales rugby team, in stark relief, has a captain of 23-years-old and a spine through the team of players under 24 years of age. They are into serious people and skills development.

The WRU should take over educational leadership training for the Welsh schools system.

Secondly, and not unrelated to the external influence of diverse leadership, rugby has taken on-board one of the great challenges of Welshness that has hamstrung national progress in many fields, that of the "Lobster Pot" mentality. Carolyn Hitt has long identified this morbid tendency as endemic to Wales. In the Lobster Pot, singly all the arthropods could easily escape but instead they grab at each other in a useless "king of the hill" competition which prevents any from escaping and ensures collective demise. In the pot, each has a limited, individualistic view that breeds envy and myopia. This is equality guaranteed at its nastiest and lowest level.

This tall poppy syndrome of the sea springs from rampant tribalism and manifests itself in a pseudo anti-elitism.

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Reflect on Wales RWC Team: Help Education Thrive; Who Said Sport and Education Don't Mix? Terry Mackie, Director of Educational Consultancy Empathi Cymru and a Former Head of School Improvement for Newport Council, Looks at the Lessons to Be Learned from Welsh Rugby
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