Angler and head teacher of Pelsall Village School, near Walsall, Glyn Bagley is keen to help his young charges gain a sense of calm and focus through learning to fish. During 2020, he arranged a Let’s Fish! day with the support of our team. Glyn takes up the story
Having spent most of my youth on the banks of a canal, and knowing the joys, skills and life experiences fishing can bring, it was inevitable that I recently passed on my love of fishing to my son. As a primary school head teacher, I was keen to become involved with the Let's Fish! school programme to try to engage more youngsters with the sport.
In September 2020, my son Isaac participated in his first national celebration of young people and fishing. It was a truly wonderful day. I was lucky to have the perspective of a proud father but I also, as a head teacher, recognised the potential the sport has for improving the wellbeing of young children who may need specific support during their early years and sometimes beyond. In total 107 children took part in the celebration that year and the positivity displayed during the prize cadet and youth presentations was both inspiring and heart-warming.
As an end-of-term ‘Golden Day' activity I arranged with Peter for some of the children from Pelsall Village School to go fishing with four of the Let's Fish! coaches. Anglers will know how lucky we are in the Midlands with so many canals on our doorstep. There's a popular stretch of the Wyrley and Essington Canal just a few minutes from the school, which an was ideal location.
Social, emotional and mental health issues amongst our children have grown significantly in recent years, as well as autism spectrum disorder diagnoses. It is largely recognised that calming activities and environments can be beneficial in alleviating the stress or anxieties that are typical of both educational needs. The group of eight children who spent those initial few magical hours with the Let's Fish! coaches are of course all individuals with their own specific needs. However, from enviously watching them, I am confident that any worries or anxieties any of them had were most definitely calmed during the fishing experience.
Alfie and Maggie (both Year 4, pictured top) went on to catch at least one fish each that day. Alfie loved the experience, “I love fishing Mr Bagley, it is just so peaceful!” It was great to hear those words from Alfie, knowing the experience had been completely positive for him.
Maverick (Year 4) had a great time catching some lovely perch (pictured). He explained, “fishing is fun and it's exciting when you get a bite!”
On the walk back to school that day, I reflected on the afternoon. In every sense it had been ‘golden', from the autumnal leaves to the children's smiles. I was sure that some, if not all, of the children would be inspired to go fishing again and in doing so will be rewarded with all the benefits it has to offer.
The school was determined not to the pandemic totally scupper our 2021 Let's Fish plans if we could avoid it. We contacted the Let's Fish team and set up a weekly series of coaching sessions for the six children we have chosen to represent the school in the upcoming national celebration of young people and fishing. These sessions were led by another great Let's Fish coach, Peter James who noticed a steady improvement in their fishing skills as the weeks progressed.
National celebration day
Following the Thursday evening Facebook live draw for fishing positions, the big day arrived. The weather bright and sunny, not unusual for Staffordshire of course. Nearly 80 cadets aged between 7 and 10 were soon lining the towpath. First fishing priority for all our participants was landing a gudgeon and perch because that meant securing a voucher to receive the gudgeon mug and Percy the perch badge respectively. This they all achieved.
The day was first and foremost about having fun with others who enjoy fishing but deep down the prospects of winning the award on offer to the top finishing school also spurred them on, acting as an extra incentive for focussing hard on the fishing for the whole three hours.
When the results were announced, our full team of three, compromising Logan Farmer, Kellan Franks and Tyler Thomas ended up in 17th position with the second team (unfortunately minus a participant due to Covid) in 22nd spot. This meant that as hoped, we had finished as the top placed school team in the cadets section. It was a proud moment for all three of them to walk up to receive their trophies, presented to them by the Chairman of Angling Trust, George Stephenson. We can't wait for the next Let's Fish season to kick off and the chance for some practice at some of the regional Commonwealth Communities events ahead of September's national celebration of young people and fishing. School's are more than welcome to join.