Introducing this, Warren White’s annual review , I am humbled by the professionalism of the Fishing for Schools coaching team.
We all know just how difficult this year has been; with every facet of lives and every sector of society affected to some degree. The issues that this period has thrown up for education, and young people, especially, have been way beyond challenging. The fact that Warren and others in the Kent team have found ways through is not only huge testament to their fortitude but also demonstrates the resilience and passion found within young people: these students would surprise you. I would also urge you to “applaud” the schools and their dedicated teachers – teachers as much “front-line” heroes as anyone out there working to maintain a degree of normality in utterly turbulent world. Their dedication is both exemplary and worth our very highest praise.
These are Warren’s words...
Founder of Fishing for Schools
This year has been a challenging one, but still a positive one.
The planning for our programme of eight schools and three mental health groups starts early in the year, with our practical fishing courses normally starting in spring. As always, with these , often challenging groups, a great deal of work is involved with the initial planning,: booking the fisheries , coaches, arrangements schools; and with mental health groups, especially, making sure all regulations are in place - including risk assessment, photo consent and all the other components which go to make for a successful outcome for the courses.
So, to have all these bookings cancelled due to the early Covid restrictions ,has been a major blow,. Just cancelling the fisheries which we use, is not easy. Simply, because while the fisheries may have been open since May, the difficulty has been that schools and mental health groups, and their lead personal which we liaise and work with were often unavailable due to facilities being shut through “lockdown”, so unable to go fishing.
But it has been testament to the fisheries that we use e.g. Monk lakes and Hadlow college that they were fully understanding of the situation, so thanks to both of them. So from March to September all our work was largely postponed. After the schools returned from the summer break in early September I started getting some interest from schools about wanting to go fishing.
Rowhill, a school, that we have been working with for many years and who we deliver the BTEC Fisheries course, too; asked us when they returned to school after the summer break (on the Wednesday of the new autumn term starting), whether we could start the fishing course the very next day - on the Thursday. That shows how keen they are!
However , there were other schools that were booked in for angling courses in September and October ,who would have loved to have taken part, but were unable to do so, because of the schools policy of not allowing their students to leave the school premises for outdoor provision, due to Covid. So Frustrating.
The up-side though, since schools having gone back in September, we have been working with Rowhill school on a regular basis. Whilst our usual venue Grove Farm Fishery, Hadlow college was shut because of Covid. But with the good weather conditions during September, we made the most of visiting some new venues; fisheries, like Chart Fishery, at Chart Sutton. We have also made a “big-thing” , throughout this Covid outbreak , of trying to be in an outdoor environment, fishing , rather than staying in an indoor classroom environment. We believed that this was far better for the students wellbeing.
But we know, as winter approaches and fishing time will get less, we will need to spend more time indoors to get the paperwork side of the BTEC Fishery course completed. Rowhill school are a good example of a Special Educational Needs (SEN) school that have students who love to get outside and fish. I know that the work we do on the BTEC Fisheries course, especially in these times, is really beneficial for their well-being and helps in their educational future.
One school, especially, that was really keen to carry on with our fishing courses was the Nexus School, Tonbridge.
Last winter, a group of students from the school all passed the Aims Award Fishing qualification, which was a course which ran over 10 weeks and combined written work with practical fishing. This was after the year before of coming on to the F4S angling Programme where they gained a real interest for fishing.
At that point , when delivering the Aims qualification, we saw taking the boys fishing as a reward for their hard and diligent course work,. Sadly, at that time , because of the Covid lockdown it simply wasn’t possible. The school then booked their course for October, which worked out really well, as we were once again able to fish, with restrictions being lifted. As a result, You could see by the student’s body language, that they were keen to get outdoors and fish, I cannot speak more highly of the student’s improvement and hard work over the last few years after coming onto the Fishing for Schools (F4S) Programme.
One branch of our Fishing Coaching work which we do, that is so rewarding to the coaches and something which the participants love to do, is our work with mental health and Disability groups. This year our summer programme with our three groups Charlton Athletic , Choice Support, and the Trevor Gibbens, NHS Trust, all had to be cancelled because of Covid, which was understandable. But as restrictions got lifted at the end of the summer, we arranged with Trevor Gibbens to take a group fishing again - and what a great time they had.
Having worked with Mental health groups for 12 years, now, I cannot emphasis how important fishing is to people with mental health conditions. Not only does it get them outdoors in a healthy environment, but doing something that they actively enjoy , which in turn, allows then to gain confidence and a well-being in their lives.
We will all be hoping, that come next spring , we will once again be able to commence our vital work with our mental health groups again. Everything is in place to do just that.
Throughout the lockdown we have tried to keep in touch with our schools and mental health groups and although in lockdown we haven’t been able to fish, we have tried to be there for them.
We have guided our groups to the F4S website where there is a variety of learning resources which include; videos, fishing quizzes, work sheets etc.
Also we were able to work with some of our students on a Visual Fishing course on Facetime. In this case it was to try and get some of our students up the ladder of the Angling Trust Cast Awards,
This worked really well for students that were bored at home in a lockdown situation, helping to give them something to do.
One student who was a keen Boy Scout managed to get up to Level 2 Cast Award, which was needed to get his Scouts Anglers badge, which meant a lot to him. So although this year has not been easy, we are trying to carry on as best as we can.
I think, once we get this winter over, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Fishing for Schools Coach