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  • Writer's pictureFishing for Schools

Spotlight on Bryanston School Fishing Club: our monthly Q&A

This month we talk to Will Bridges, Assistant Head at Bryanston School in Dorset. Will has been instrumental in setting up a successful fishing club at Bryanston as part of the school's Outdoor Education curriculum.

Introduce yourself, Will.

I am a teacher of Politics and Assistant Head at Bryanston School in Dorset. I grew up in Somerset in a village near Frome. The countryside has always been a huge part of who I am, and I am hugely passionate about it. I did a bit of shooting at university and fish now, and have always believed strongly in the power of field sports for good.


When did you start fishing and why? When did you first hear about Fishing for Schools?

I was one of those that started fishing properly after lockdown. I did a bit as a child with family or on holiday, but it never really piqued my interest. However, during lockdown the river Stour was on my daily walking route and I longed to fish it. As soon as restrictions ended, myself and a good friend Nick Payne (who I run the fishing with at school) got some rods and a licence and off we went. For me, it was an opportunity to connect properly again with the environment and to ‘get outside’.

It’s a message I give the pupils who I fish with today – it is a perfect opportunity to get outside and connect with the environment in a way you otherwise might not be able to.  

Fishing is also so accessible and affordable. The opportunity to now work with Charles and the team is something that we are really excited about.


You work and teach in a topflight school, which many would see as 'elite'. How do you see a Fishing for Schools programme working at Bryanston? Do you see conflicts? 

I think historically there has been a sense of conflict between the sectors, yes, but that isn’t accurate today. I think it was because of a lack of understanding between the sectors and what they could offer each other. We are fortunate to have positive working relationships with local state schools, including The Blandford School. We consider ourselves to be incredibly lucky to have that relationship and the support that comes with it as part of the Blandford Schools' Network which we are all a part of. I went to a state comprehensive that was considered a good school, but the opportunities that we had as pupils there were certainly limited compared to here.  

I think Fishing for Schools is a chance for that opportunity that we afford our pupils at Bryanston to be extended to the wider community. There are facilities we have here that we can open up to pupils who need it from local schools, and for me and Nick that is really exciting. We have seen the benefit that fishing, as a programme, has had on our pupils and we are keen to open that up to pupils who wouldn’t otherwise get that exposure. Fishing for Schools for us is going to be incredibly powerful to facilitate that opportunity due to us lacking the expertise ourselves.


How have Bryanston students responded to angling?

It’s been immense and we have had such a positive reaction. The programme started three years ago where fishing was put into our Outdoor Education curriculum. Our Head of Outdoor Education, Duncan Curry, was instrumental in getting us started and we are lucky that outdoor education is a core part of our School’s DNA. In three years, we have built an oversubscribed Fishing Club and every week in the autumn and spring term a different group of Year 10’s have an hour of fishing. The vast majority of Year 12, 11 and 10 therefore have had at least an hour of fishing in their time with us and a that is really encouraging for the future of the sport. We also use it as an opportunity to connect our pupils to nature.

In a world that is increasingly digital and virtual, we have an obligation to develop the next generation of anglers and conservationists who are going to be in a position to tackle issues such as climate change, habitat loss and pollution. 


Can you describe the facilities at Bryanston?

The school is its own little village with so many amazing facilities. We are blessed with a 400 acre site, with the approximately mile stretch of the Stour; our jewel in the crown. Our estates team are truly exceptional in looking after the grounds and the river – without them it would be a lot more difficult to run our sessions and we owe a huge debt to them. It is because of these facilities that we feel a partnership with Fishing for Schools will be so powerful and meaningful. What we need is for Fishing for Schools to help us unlock the facilities and enable us to make the best use of them.

What were the pitfalls when starting your angling project at the school?

It was a bit of a struggle getting things together at the beginning because, as with anything, you need kit and we had none! We also were both new to fishing ourselves so although we were both massively keen, we were lacking in some of the expertise that the expert coaches at Fishing for Schools have. We have definitely got better in this regard, and we have been fortunate to have the support of the parents who have helped us get some kit and we have acquired a shed to keep it all in (thus saving my car from the horrible smell of a drying net that had a 4lb pike in it during the session!).


How do you think we might take Fishing for Schools forwards into more schools like Bryanston, yet maintain our credibility with our core state sectors.

I don’t think credibility needs to be undermined by making the use of facilities that other schools have, and who are often really keen to share. Fishing for Schools can act as a really important factor in providing the means to pupils who need it by making sure the right conversations are happening and where schools want to help, they can get it. Nick and I have always been interested in extending the opportunity to fish to other pupils in the local area, but as with some things, we lack the time and expertise to do that. By facilitating this opportunity, I don’t think Fishing for Schools’ credibility is undermined, but by allowing a greater number of pupils who need it the chance to fish, it could have massive positive benefits to the overall success of the programme.


What are your thoughts about the enrichment to young people through angling. 

I think I mentioned this before but the connection to the countryside and the environment is critical. Fishing is a vehicle for a broader connection to the flora and fauna of our countryside. We need a generation of young people who are interested in and passionate about the countryside if we are to tackle the myriad of problems facing it and fishing is critical for that.


Where do you see angling in twenty years’ time. 

Thriving – I really do. Fishing has a great social media presence which we know is hugely important and as we consider the importance of well-being and mental health, it is something that an increasing number of people should access. Some of our practice needs cleaning up, I think. We can’t ignore the amount of plastic in coarse angling and we will need to learn to embrace, not through scorn on, predators such as otters as they become re-established across the country (although I know they present difficulties with fishery owners). We are pleased that we have a nearly 50/50 girl/boy split who fish with us every week and I would like this over the next twenty years to be reflected more widely!




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