"Abersychan School can be found up a winding road right the heart of what was the industrial heartbeat of a nation. The Welsh valleys. Not far from Pontypool, it is schools such as this with their strong sense of community, care and dedication that have made Welsh teaching renowned.
I knew from our initial visit that this was a school that was exceptional on all levels, and where Fishing for Schools really needed to be. It has been an arduous route to being operational in the school but my goodness, I am so very glad we got there in the end."
- Charles Jardine, Director of Fishing for Schools
Kathryn Watkins of Abersychan School talks to us about their experience of taking part in our Fishing for Schools programme.
What did your pupils enjoy the most?
Most had never been fishing so got to experience a new activity in a relaxed and calming atmosphere with supportive staff. Some students don’t get the opportunity to go on school trips, so this made them feel lucky.
Has anything surprised you about the programme?
The interest in continuing the programme in school and wanting to start an angling group at Abersychan. The relationships amongst students have stayed strong and they are still chatting about the sessions. One of the pupils has even started fishing with his dad and now they share quality time together.
What is your most memorable experience?
Seeing the faces of the young people when they caught a fish and watching them develop new skills and working outside of their comfort zone. Celebrating the success of all students gaining the certificates and being able to have positive conversations and build relationships with school staff.
What did the teachers and support staff enjoy the most in their time with Fishing for Schools?
There have been so many; being part of the group and supporting the pupils in a different environment, pupils letting staff in and letting down boundaries. Talking freely at the bankside and pupils calling to share the excitement when have a catch or a fish they need help to land.
How did you find the coaches? Were they what you expected?
The coaches were friendly, relaxed and encouraging to pupils. They gave clear and simple instructions then allowed the pupils to take control using the knowledge gained. They offered advice but never presented it as rules or demands. Students opened up instantly and never saw them as strangers; it was if they were part of our team from the go.
Can you let us know the funniest moment on the course?
The smallest pupil landing the biggest fish and the most experienced pupil winning smallest fish on competition day. It was very good for egos and brought laughter to all.
Do you think the school will embrace a different view of angling-education and general outdoor education as a result of this programme?
We have already started fundraising to buy fishing equipment and hope to be able to offer this as a rewards programme during the spring/summer term. Taking part has demonstrated staff benefits of outdoor learning to the students. We have had so many pupils ask if they could go following the success of the first course and pupils sharing their stories.
What do you think the future holds for fishing education related activities in the school after the departure of Fishing for Schools?
We need to make sure it continues so others can also benefit from the invaluable experience that students at Abersychan were lucky enough to participate in. Students were calmer, relaxed around staff and supported each other, gaining so many interpersonal skills, and I forgot to mention developing a new hobby!
Delivered by The Countryside Alliance Foundation, Fishing for Schools is one of the few projects which goes into schools to help disadvantaged children develop their confidence, education and skills through fishing. Founded by Charles Jardine and now in its fifteenth year, Fishing for Schools has reached 3500 young people across England and Wales, supporting young people who struggle to learn in the classroom.