Fishing for Schools founder and director Charles Jardine looks back on 2017 and forward to another year of providing this great initiative to schools across the UK.

What an extraordinary year our 10th anniversary has been.  Not only has the growth of our schools activities been prodigious but we have set standards in this area of alternative education as yet not seen or delivered by any other organisation in this genre.

This has been particularly evident in Kent and the West Country areas where delivery of Fishing for Schools is offering hope to young people often excluded, for one reason or another, from a more formal type of education.

The opportunity to shine is vital to a young person’s well-being and future confidence and might, in some instances, prove to be the only formal measure of their ability. Fishing for Schools is incredibly proud of the coaches that deliver these courses both diligently and expertly, often to young people who have not had the best start in life. The professionalism and compassion that each demonstrates is heartwarming and a beacon in a sometimes gloomy landscape.

One of the first highlights of the year came  in April with myself undertaking my third London Marathon for the Foundation and personally raising nearly £7,000 (see how Charles and the rest of the team got on here).

Swiftly following on from the Marathon, was the creation of the Derbyshire/Yorkshire region of Fishing for Schools under an enthusiastic team led by Geoff Smith (the manager of Ladybower), Steve Newsome and  Richard Jamieson. Already there are signs of strong growth in the region and we all know that this area will prove to a huge success into the years ahead.

Contiguous to the creation of this group was the completion in Kent of the first ever Aims course – a purpose designed opportunity for young people to achieve bonafide GCSE credits through Fishing for Schools. Also in Kent, came the first tentative steps in working with people with mental health issues. This field, whilst not truly at our core, is vital. The help we have been able to offer and the small successes achieved have had major impacts on the clients’ well-being. We are thrilled to be able take this aspect of our work forwards into the weeks, months and years to come.

Throughout the spring and summer, regional activities grew at an unprecedented degree – 44% up on previous years. Throughout 2017 Fishing for Schools has received a number of requests to deliver the initiative into pupil referral units throughout England and Wales – this is vital work and we are pleased to play a part in a young person’s last chance in formal education.

Again, this year our Open Days proved exceptionally popular. Open Days  are one off days were a variety of angling related actives are delivered to groups of young people from various schools within a specific radius – many schools are deemed special – over short twenty minutes sessions. These events have been amazingly effective and enable so many to experience angling and rural elements within in education for the first time. We will be continuing these effective introductions throughout 2018. Two we provided were at Lenwade in Norfolk and  Arlington Reservoir in Sussex

Arguably, the crowning event in 2017, was the bi-Annual Champions Awards reception held in Westminster. This is a national celebration of the achievement of students and an opportunity for an individual “champion” to represent their school and meet their local MP…and eat Westminster cake! This event is full of heartwarming instances and emotional moments. An opportunity to celebrate all that is good about our young people and a far cry from how they are soften portrayed.

Springing from that reception, have been new opportunities in Cornwall and North Wales. Our family continues to grow at a pace.

The first major thing “up” in 2018 will be the Wessex Water Challenge, a sponsored event where I will be attempting to catch a fish from Clatworthy Reservoir, then Hawkridge then on to Sutton Bingham in the space of 24 hours not a huge “ask” you would think…but ….without wheeled transportation? Mad. A total of some 54 miles over cross country and roads will be covered. You may well ask why I am doing such a crazy challenge but it is quite simple the kids are worth it and I believe in Fishing for Schools. 

With more schools and regions coming on board and open days planned, 2018 looks set to be just as, if not busier than 2017.

In closing, the Fishing for Schools team would just like to thank everyone for the encouragement, the help and assistance that has come from the Countryside Alliance members and their supreme generosity – something, never, ever ,taken for granted. You help to take our initiative into desperately needy areas and help young people who otherwise would possibly never get a chance.

Thank you!

Charles Jardine

Director