Moving the jersey forward

24 January 2018 by AMiE
Keynote speaker at the 2017 AMiE annual conference, Steve Chalke, founder of the Oasis Community Learning multi-academy trust, illustrated the importance of authentic leadership and working as part of a team with the story of his chance meeting with the late New Zealand rugby legend Jonah Lomu.
Steve Chalke

“I wanted to know how a country of just 3.5 million people could have dominated rugby with the All Blacks for the past century,” he said. “Jonah said there were two main factors that determined that success:

It wasn’t necessarily the best players who were selected, it was those with a sense of vision and a sense of team who played.


He said that there were lots of players better than him but they did their own thing on the field. Their success came from being a team and not because they were a team of individual greats.”

Jonah Lomu asked him if he had ever seen an All Black player swap his jersey with an opponent at the end of a match. “I thought about and realised that no, they didn’t,” Steve recalled.

“He told me that this was because the team always had two changing rooms - one for the team and one for their jerseys. Once the players have changed they are called to the jersey room, where they will see a circle of chairs, with the jerseys laid neatly on each chair.

“Their job is to stand there and look at the team and think about past wins and when they are ready, they go to their chair and their jersey and think about everything that has been achieved with that jersey. You pick up the shirt, put it on and then you join the team in the other room. You play for that number and the team. It’s not about you. It’s the jersey.”

He added: “At the end of the game they go back to the jersey room and on their own take it off, fold it neatly and put it back on the same chair, and think about how good it has been to have a day in the sun and then remember that all who will wear that jersey in the future. You job is to move the reputation of the jersey forward.”

He said that the Oasis logo was their equivalent of the jersey. “We call it the messy circle,” he said. “It’s our circle of inclusion. It sums up everything that we are about.”

Every new Oasis staff member, from headteacher to a caretaker or lunchtime supervisor, goes through the same induction process, which emphasises the Oasis ethos, he said. “It’s everything to do with who we are and why we are here,” he said. “We say that it’s the staff member’s task to leave the jersey in a better place than they found it. And that’s my job too.”

Steve suggested that there were four types of curriculum going on any school: the explicit curriculum consisting of taught subjects and the extra curriculum were obvious but there was also an implicit curriculum made up of the behaviour, attitudes and expectations that characterised the culture of the school, and a ‘null’ curriculum containing topics or perspectives that were never spoken about. He said it was often these unofficial curriculum elements that were the most important, yet they were often ignored by the accountability system.

We often ignore the things that we really value and end up valuing only what we can measure.


“But the measurement comes to measure you. We think we are in control through the measurements we make but the things we measure, measure us and enslave us. And we are measuring the wrong stuff half the time.”

Reporting by Nick Bannister, education communications consultant.

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