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  • Writer's pictureFishing for Schools

The Angling Skills Activity Award: a pathway to independence

Updated: Mar 1, 2023

Fishing for Schools Coach Richard Winser talks us through the evolution of the Angling Skills Activity Award and its successful pilot in the Eastern region.

There are numerous angling awards, some are age specific, have a minimum time for completion, are organisation specific, need external verification, have compatible assessment elements, are part of a wider qualification, have a vocational basis, are considered more prestigious than others, and some lead onto other things while others don’t.

So when it came to putting all the cards on the table back in October 2020, and drawing on over five centuries experience within the Fishing for Schools Coaching Team, who could be better placed to review and assess the suitability and compatibility of each qualification requirement, than those who teach and work the complete spectrum of awards?

Rising to the challenge, Charles Jardine assembled the Fishing for Schools Qualification Working Group, and the story starts from there…

Adopting a reflective approach to continuous improvement means looking at what we do and how we impart knowledge. We must think about what works, what can be improved, what can be shared, the wider educational objectives and evaluating what has been delivered.

The Angling Trust had already commissioned an external body to undertake a review of their AIM’s qualification and the feedback Fishing for Schools were able to provide towards it, from years of practical delivery, was a tremendous asset. However, there was a wider opportunity to consider the suite of other qualifications, the synergy between them and review their content in the context of current requirements

It became quickly apparent that the Angling Trust CAST qualification, generic to Coarse, Sea and Game angling disciplines was the favoured and most widely used entry level syllabus.

CAST has a “Starter” level, awarded to those for minimal participation at experience events followed by a further six tiers; level two already established as an equivalent to the Scout Association Angling Activity Award Badge.

Each tier has several elements to satisfy encompassing a range of broad angling topics, many of which could be taught without being on the bank, if necessary. This of course meant, while operating against a ‘backdrop’ of Covid lockdown restrictions, there was (with minimal adjustment) an avenue to persist with alternative ‘remote’ delivery methods and continue to engage our schools. The importance of which cannot be over emphasised as pupils experienced anguish and isolation, with only the most vulnerable or children of ‘Key Workers’ being able to attend school settings.

The CAST assessment elements are not prescriptively taught, they are designed to be contextualised and the coaching team instructing them still has the latitude to deliver them as they see fit and at a pace commensurate with their audience. An aspect that the Qualification Group were keen to maintain.

Work was soon underway to review each CAST element, suggest changes where appropriate and map them in a spreadsheet for easy identification. This evolved into structuring the elements from CAST “Starter” levels 1 & 2 into a foundation award and setting Bronze, Silver and Gold, depending on the number of elements achieved.

It also preserved the flexibility to award a certificate to those who had just observed or had basic angling participation or, due to their abilities, students not capable of achieving higher levels.

Furthermore, if a student did not achieve the required number of assessment elements for the given threshold, there is scope to undertake targeted work to achieve the desired level with Silver/Gold improver sessions.

Finally, the revision of the assessment elements incorporates and are compatible with the ASDAN Certificate of Personal Effectiveness (COPE) range statements[1].

Suddenly, the Foundation level of the Angling Skills Activity Award had evolved into being.

As angling coaches, we know too well that demonstrating a skill or conveying an assessment element, does not infer competence.

Our instruction is not a “tick box” exercise, it is a journey at the individual speed of our student and a pathway to wider educational outcomes or independent angling.

The remaining CAST tiers (levels 3-6) had each element reviewed, divided and then categorised as Intermediate and Independent clusters. This catered for longer term angling development, continuity after completion of the Foundation award and remained generic enough to encompass all three angling disciplines. The start line for embarking on the Intermediate and Independent levels is achieving competence at Foundation level.

Is there a need to maintain the ability to remotely deliver tutorials, now that Covid prevention measures have abated? Some schools prefer to have the first four tutorials delivered in this way. It caters for shorter attention spans, builds the participants into the course, and reduces travel costs.

As a tactical option, it is worth preserving.

It is entirely down to the instruction team how they convey the assessment elements, what they are comfortable with and what works for them.

To avoid any ambiguity, the Angling Skills Activity Award is an update and refresh of the CAST award, clustering it differently, rewording some phraseology, ensuring that it is fit for purpose and complements teaching requirements. The ability to deliver some of its content remotely is a bonus.

Having refreshed the CAST content, it seemed that all that was left to do was pilot the syllabus in the Eastern Region and determine the viability of the Angling Skills Activity Award concept.

We do not learn from experience; we learn from reflecting on experience.

Wind on two years and five months and the Angling Skills Activity Award has been trialled in six separate schools and with two charities. Over 130 participants have engaged with the award, ranging in age from 10 – 17 years. The assessment criteria have been versatile enough to cater for a variety of ability levels, physical disability, mainstream and special educational needs. Delivery of it has worked equally well on an individual basis and in group environments. It does not need to be externally verified like the CAST award from which it finds its basis.

How do we define success?

Feedback from the teaching staff has been overwhelmingly positive:

Gold CAST awards were achieved, although more importantly for our students it was whether they could transfer their new skills and knowledge into practice whilst building confidence, self-esteem and resilience. This was clear to see.”

“Memories have been created that will last a lifetime. [The Eastern Region Team] instilled a 'can do attitude' through positive reinforcement and enthusiasm; motivating students to come out of their comfort zone and try something that most had never done before. An experience that will no doubt be transferable for many years to come.”

“The inclusion with [Fishing for Schools] sessions has been first rate and a phenomenal experience providing 'vulnerable' children an exceptional opportunity. These students are sadly denied similar experiences through their atypical domestic arrangements coupled to their unique behavioural challenges. We cannot thank [the Eastern Region Team] enough - they have been nothing short of exceptional. As instructors they are enthusiastic, engaging, motivating, approachable, clear and set an example to aspire to.”

“Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts”

– Winston Churchill.

The syllabus will continue to form the basis for the Eastern Region allocated schools in 2023, primarily at Foundation level.

However, having taught three (double) courses at Aylsham High School, Norfolk over the last three years, we have achieved a ‘critical mass’ of around 60 students that have completed the Foundation Award, mostly at gold level.

The intention in July and September 2023 is to pilot the Intermediate level with some of our previous Aylsham students that have shown particular “aptitude or enthusiasm”.

Typically these students will now be aged 14-16 years, have a foundation in Coarse fishing and will be exposed to Sea and Fly fishing to complete further stages of their assessment.

We will hopefully then be able to validate the minimum timeframes for delivery and complete what has been a continuous evaluation and refinement process – not to mention having a lot of fun doing so (and getting to wear a shark suit)!

[1] Working with others, Improving own learning and performance, Problem solving, Carrying out a piece of research, Communicating through discussion, Planning and giving an oral presentation.

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