The Fishing Academy (TFA) is a registered charity (No. 1130607) initially established to provide support, guidance and alternative provisions for young people, some of whom are at risk of exclusion from school, having problems at home, socially excluded or who are on the fringes of crime and / or causing anti-social behaviour. The range of participants has now been widened to potentially include all school children who their sponsoring school feel may benefit from the experience of the small group sizes we can offer.
Since 2004, TFA has used the popular sport of angling as an engagement tool which provides a platform for a professionally structured 12-month program, teaching young people to fish, whilst delivering a Qualification i.e. the AIM Award in Angling and the Environment which is comparable to a high grade GCSE.
Whilst engaged in the program the participants also reinforce their numeracy and literacy skills thus increasing their general confidence and ability to learn.
Most of the young people who are referred to our project are not expected to gain any formal qualifications, and some struggle with basic numeracy and literacy. With our help we can raise their confidence, life and academic aspirations.
We can help give them the enthusiasm and drive to achieve in life.
By gentle reintroduction to a learning environment and confidence building, we can return those who have been ‘lost’ by the educational establishments back to a form of schooling and discipline.
By providing them with the confidence and self-belief that they can achieve academic qualifications they raise their own expectations and life aspirations.
A number of those attending TFA have gone on to follow further education at specialist colleges such as Rodbaston College, Staffordshire, where some of our attendees have successfully completed environment and fishery related courses. TFA has been identified and formally acknowledged by educational establishments as the key factor in such success stories.
In addition to the main program described above we also deliver a number of short courses during the school holidays called “Introduction to Angling and the Environment”. The aim of these courses is to provide participants with the skills necessary to safely and successfully set up and fish away from TFA thus providing the foundations for a long term hobby. The course also increases awareness of the Environment and its wildlife.
These short courses are open to all age groups and abilities.
The Fishing Academy continues to target the most disadvantaged and vulnerable young people at risk of social exclusion, criminality, anti- social behaviour. Many have low self-esteem, no ambition and have given up on schooling and society. Some have previously played truant on a regular basis, most are under achieving at school, many are on alternative curriculum’s or part time tables, a majority have poor prospects for future employment and have only unemployment to look forward to for the foreseeable future .
Most come from negatively influenced home and community backgrounds, have long-term problems and been subject to numerous unsuccessful interventions to tackle issues. Left to their own devices, crime becomes a natural path for many of the youngsters.
TFA provides an individually focused approach. Our trained and experienced Tutors work with young people to improve their inter personal skills through teamwork and exercises; encouraging them to strive to achieve their personal goals; improve their knowledge around related subject matters in such a way and pace that the individuals feel comfortable with their own progress.
Tutors provide a positive role model for young people to follow. During each angling session as well as professional structure and guidance, time is built in for conversation between the young person and his or her peers, as well as the Tutor. We are able to remove barriers and nurture the development of new friendships through a new common interest i.e. the sport of angling.
This removal of barriers with its friendly and safe environment is useful as it enables young people attending to relax and talk freely about anything they wish to discuss.
On many occasions we have been able to identify underlying issues that are impacting negatively on the young person’s life and manifesting itself in poor behaviour and under achievement.
We have witnessed young people opening up to their Tutor in an obvious ‘cry for help’. Others are less forward with regards to the negative influences on their lives, but with our close links with Schools, Children’s Services and Youth Services, we are able to highlight issues or concerns to the relevant agency so that support mechanisms can be put in place if required.
A vital element of the work we do lies in the mentoring, support, mediation and social interaction, which is delivered alongside the skills and educational work delivered by our qualified tutors.
Our delivery of disciplined fun activities, conducted in a relaxing, but supported and stress free environment provides the ideal setting for the youngsters to talk about issues troubling them which are adversely impacting upon their life and future opportunities. Once identified / disclosed these issues can be explored and addressed.
The majority of our referrals come from schools; therefore our program is structured to run in parallel with the academic year. During this time the young people attend for a one-day session each fortnight. Participants sign and commit themselves to a Contract of Behaviour which is monitored on a regular basis. Less than 5% of those attending TFA yearlong programs breach this contract of behaviour.
During each session young people are given professional coaching and tuition by our specially trained level two qualified angling coaches, who have received additional training from Youth Services and other Agencies in Youth work, Counselling, drug and alcohol awareness.
A significant part of the day, usually 2-3 hours, is classroom based. During this time the young people work towards their AIM Award in Angling and the Environment (Comparable to a high level GCSE qualification).
The Young people benefit from mentoring and support whilst with us, and can take an active part in many different practical and environmental challenges on site such as investigating and maintaining the bio diversity around the lake and woodlands, creating habitats for insects and animals, installing and maintaining bird and bat boxes, planting native plant beds and assisting with our fish breeding programme.
Building on what we do:
TFA’s continued success in changing the lives, attitudes and expectations of young people, means we find ourselves with ever increasing demands for our services.
The number of young people going through the project grows year on year, we currently work with up to 120 young people a year from the West Midlands and Staffordshire area, with the majority coming from their most deprived areas.
Our numbers are restricted purely by the limitation of available funding. An increasing number of referrals are being made each year to our project, as it has proven to be an effective intervention when engaging with disaffected and disadvantaged young people.
Young people are involved in maintaining TFA site, not only by simply keeping it tidy, but also by being involved in the whole ecology of the area. They ensure that there is sympathetic planting and care of plants and trees, and provide appropriate habitation for fish, birds and insects in order that the whole area is working in sustainable ecological synergy. They are involved in the day-to-day decision-making, compiling funding applications for equipment they decide is needed, and carry out on site daily active risk assessments.