I would like to start by saying what a special year we have had in 2021 working with our schools and mental health and disability groups.
Ruby from Cornwallis Academy
Although it has been challenging due to Covid, the flip side of this is that I have never known a time when so many people want to get outdoors and have a go at fishing, probably due to having to lockdown earlier in the year.
Huge thanks go out to the fisheries we use, Grove Farm at Hadlow College, Monk Lakes and the T.W.A.P.S club waters, for their ongoing support, it needs to be remembered that our fisheries are an important cog in a successful angling coaching operation.
We had four schools in this year’s intake, Thamesview school at Gravesend, Meadowfield school at Sittingbourne, The Malling school at Maidstone and Cornwallis school, Maidstone. These schools were the lucky ones as, so often in Kent and elsewhere, the courses are always oversubscribed in the application process that takes place the year before the courses start. The schools that are chosen are given funding to do four sessions where they are taught a combination of Coarse and Fly fishing by our licenced and qualified angling coaches. The combination of learning coarse and fly fishing makes our courses quite unique!
During the participation on our courses, the young people learn about fishing while taking the Cast Awards, an Angling Trust skills programme that the pupils and schools like because it is a structured course with students attaining certificates for each level of competence. They then progress from this and the schools' have the opportunity to choose an official angling qualification, such as BTEC Fisheries. From this year’s school courses we have had some really positive feedback from the students and teachers which is always encouraging and nice to know. A special mention and thanks to the Cobtree Trust and the Kent Community Foundation who have helped to fund the school courses in 2021.
Due to the eagerness of many schools to join our Fishing programme, we have some that come forward willing to pay for their own sessions. This year we had The Maidstone and Malling Alternative Provision and Rowhill school, Longfield who did just that because they recognise and have seen the benefits of students going fishing, but need the right guidance.
From my personal point of view, the main thing I like the young people to get out of our course, is to enjoy themselves in a fun way and to become better anglers and hopefully take up fishing as a hobby, then join a club. However, a crucial element is that it can provide the students with the ability and opportunity to progress from our courses to an Angling qualification such as BTEC.
Once the students leave school, they are then well placed to advance to attend Hadlow College to do a course in fisheries and hopefully go on to be employed within the angling industry. Each year we see more of our school students come through our angling courses and then go on to Hadlow college which is rewarding for us and them and great to see.
One branch of the coaching work that we do that is rewarding to the instructors, and something the participants love to do, is working with our mental health and disability groups. After the last couple of years of living through the issues with Covid, there has never been a time that our mental health groups have wanted to get outdoors and get on with their fishing. Once things started opening up this Spring we were able to start working with our three mental health groups - The Trevor Gibbens NHS Trust, Charlton Athletic and Community and Choice Support. I cannot emphasis how important fishing is to people with mental health conditions, it gets them outdoors in a healthy environment, doing something they love and builds confidence and well being in their lives.
I would sincerely like to give thanks to David Evans and Bob Goble the other two coaches who are part of the Fishing for Schools Team. Throughout a very testing year living with Covid, we have managed to complete all our sessions with our schools and mental health groups and have had some wonderful feedback from the participants.
This article was originally featured in the Freshwater Informer December 2021 Edition.