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Fishing for a brighter future

Young people encouraged to give fishing a go to boost their health and improve school performance.

As children return to the classroom this week, the Environment Agency is working with the Angling Trust to encourage schools to promote fishing to pupils.

The Environment Agency and the Angling Trust have been working in partnership to increase participation in angling. The Angling Trust is responsible for delivering the National Angling Strategy. Fishing has proven health, social and educational benefits. It can help pupils improve personal skills such as communication, concentration, discipline, and can even reduce crime and truancy.

One school in the North West is already leading the way. The Environment Agency has been working with Smithills School and Bolton Angling Club to add angling to the curriculum. Smithills is one of the only schools in the country offering fishing activities to its students onsite and even has seven members of staff who are professionally qualified angling coaches. The school has set up its own angling club, which meets weekly during term time, and has a school angling team that competes with other clubs at weekends.

The Environment Agency has worked with the school to provide safe access to the water, including disabled access, to ensure the pupils and the wider community can enjoy fishing safely at the lake on the school grounds, which is owned by Bolton Angling Club.

Schools don’t need to have their own onsite lake. Any school interested in finding out more should contact the Angling Trust, where a regional officer can help link a qualified and licenced angling coach to a school and help ensure that high standards are established early on. They can also assist with grant applications to provide equipment and to improve facilities along with advice on how to get started. Local information on fisheries, tackle shops and instructors can be found on the FishingInfo website.

Sarah Chare, head of fisheries at the Environment Agency, said:

“Fishing is an excellent way to enjoy the outdoors, has great health, welfare and educational benefits and it is important to our economy. Smithills is an excellent example of how a school is using fishing to help pupils learn. We’d really like to see more schools doing the same.”

Alec Cottrill, Smithills headteacher, said:

“Fishing has become part of school life. It allows pupils to learn about the environment especially about the water cycle, the value of water, weather patterns and the effect humans can have on all of these. In science they build an understanding of plants and animals, photosynthesis and food chains. There are connections with many other areas of the curriculum too, for example, fishing can be linked to numeracy so pupils understand about measuring water depths and using weights to balance floats.”

Surveys show that more than 10% of 12 year olds have already been fishing and as many again would like to go – if they had a little help. The Environment Agency is working with the Angling Trust to provide that help. Angling can play a very cost-effective role in helping young people suffering from exclusion. Projects such as Get Hooked on Fishing use angling as a tool to help social inclusion and show very high success rates.

Sarah Collins, chief executive of the charity Get Hooked on Fishing, said:

“Get Hooked on Fishing has been helping young people, their families and communities access the personal, social, educational, health and well-being benefits of fishing for almost 15 years. Our work can create life-changing opportunities. For example, in one instance, a young boy on the verge of exclusion got involved with one of our projects and is now at college having excelled in his GCSEs.”

Buying an annual rod licence is easy and fishing is free for children under 12. A trout and coarse fishing licence remains at £5 for 12 to 16 year olds and £27 for adults. Rod licences are available from the Post Office. Buying a rod licence online from the Post Office website saves time and administration costs, which means more of the income can be spent on improving fish stocks and fishing.

The money raised from rod licence sales is reinvested in the environment, including a whole range of projects including improving facilities for anglers, protecting stocks from illegal fishing, plus fish restocking, invasive species eradication, and working with partners to encourage people to take-up fishing for the first time.

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