FFS_Honley-SchoolFishing for Schools Director Charles Jardine introduces the Champions of the programme: Fishing for Schools’ success is soaring. Youngsters, many with a variety of special educational are enabled to take part in fishing as part of an alternative outdoor learning course. An element of classroom work is included, but it’s fun and includes entomology to assist the fishing element. The course is working wonders across the country. 

The Countryside Alliance Foundation is so enthused by the success of the project that the “Fishing for Schools Champions” scheme has been created. Each school has nominated a Champion from its pool of participants. Those Champions now go forward to a final and the overall gold, silver and bronze medallists will be announced at a special reception.

But here’s the thing: this isn’t a “Young Angler” award, and it doesn’t reward the best cast or biggest catch. Instead, the teachers have nominated their champions for various reasons, and their words are illuminating. Michael “has an extensive knowledge of dinosaurs, but restrictive behavioural patterns made outside interests and hobbies difficult.” Fishing for Schools has had “a major positive impact on Michael’s self confidence and behaviour.”   Tony, “a vulnerable 15 year old who struggles with the structure of the education system” took part in the course and, as a direct result, “his confidence and manner of speaking to others has dramatically altered, showing respect, tolerance and empathy.” David “has come with some tough baggage but has pulled through with amazing success.” So confidence, self esteem, communication, interaction – all are qualities that Fishing for Schools may reward in its Champions.

We have fostered some passionate anglers through this programme, including Jordan, who “finds it difficult to socialise with other children and has been unable to get involved with sports.” But Fishing for Schools “has given him the confidence to help other pupils and make friends.  It has inspired him to join a fishing club.  He now fishes at weekends and has started competing.”

Another champion is Alex, previously a shy, de-motivated pupil, has become an inspired and confident young angler whose participation has seen an increase in “motivation, attendance, behaviour, and an unrivalled enthusiasm for pursuing the sport both in and outside school”.

Confidence is brimming on the programme, and the calming influence of fishing is also a draw: Blake “can get frustrated at school and has become increasingly aware of the calming benefits that angling has on his well being.” Reece “has struggled with school at times, and his behaviour can be testing.” But now “He is the perfect peer model for other pupils who would have been less well behaved had Reece not been setting the standards.”
I look forward to the difficult task of selecting the gold, silver and bronze champions, but in so many ways all of these youngsters are already winners, and I am proud that Fishing for Schools has played such a positive role in their lives.

This article first appeared in the Countryside Alliance’s Autumn 2011 magazine. Read the magazine here.

Watch a short film on the project here