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Hooked on fishing

Thousands of youngsters have been reel-ed away from crime by being hooked into fishing.

The Fishing Academy charity – by Darren Robbins from West Midlands Police – runs an angling and education programme which was set up for young people at risk of getting caught up in anti-social behaviour or exclusion from school.

Just two per cent of schoolchildren have broken their contract of good behaviour after attending; with others going on to roles in the fishing industry and waterways as a result of what they learned. The scheme was initially started by Darren with a handful of unruly youths from Brownhills in 2004. It encouraged secondary school pupils to develop new skills as an angler, learn about nature and to speak to police in an informal manner.

This led to the launch of the Fishing Academy which now works alongside up to 30 schools in the West Midlands to offer support and guidance to young people – mainly aged 12 to 16.

The charity has now also expanded to those who are not considered at risk of being drawn into crime; any youngsters who express an interest in angling or it is believed will benefit. Based in Abbotts Bromley in Staffordshire, it has a fishing lake and classrooms for mentoring and education.

Darren, who was a PC for 30 years and is now a staff member at West Midlands Police, said: “It is hard to believe how the programme has grown; it started off with myself working with a small group who were involved in anti-social behaviour in Brownhills.

“I then got a bit of funding from the police, council and Environment Agency to establish this site and now we have a purpose-built facility providing a high-level of angling tuition and learning.

“Fishing is the largest participation sport in Europe and is available to everyone, regardless of mental and physical ability. I saw there was an opportunity to use it to help keep young people on the straight and narrow; away from bad influences. Fishing is an enjoyable pastime, in tranquil surroundings, offering a period of contemplation while learning new skills.

“This can be angling but we also place a lot of emphasis on the education side; we cover all of the core skills such as English and maths; an example if this is calculating how many fish they have caught, the total weight and the average size of those fish. They then record this information on their own spread sheet.

“It is a great feeling when you hear about someone who was at risk of getting drawn into crime or anti-social behaviour but gets their life back on track as a result of the charity. It’s also great to see the demand for places from young people just wishing to learn how to fish in a safe and welcoming environment. It shows we are making a difference.”



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