Skip to main content
Creating a better place

Casting for a better education, fishing their way to academic success

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Fisheries and biodiversity

I’ve always believed that fishing has the potential to help young people understand more about the environment, science and other core school subjects. That’s why three years ago took the opportunity at Smithills School to give our students the chance to experience its many benefits.

Two female school pupils fishing

Fishing is a great opportunity for the students to interact with nature and eachother

The school was fortunate enough to have a fishery on the boundary of the school grounds, managed by Bolton Angling Association. Using money raised from rod licence sales, the Environment Agency installed a safe access path and fishing area. With seven members of staff becoming professionally qualified angling coaches through the Angling Trust, the school set up the Smithills Angling Club and was on its way to adding angling to the curriculum. The club meets weekly during term time and has a school-based angling team that competes with other local clubs at weekends.

Angling has become part of our learning outside the classroom and every pupil as the opportunity to take part. It promotes a connection with nature and the real world, away from TV, video games and social media. I have found that pupils to learn a lot about their environment, the water cycle, importance of water and weather patterns, and the effect humans can have on all of these.

Whilst being a fun and interactive activity angling is great at helping people overcome the challenges of everyday life. Stress is common place in today’s society and children are just as badly affected by it as adults are, this is where the interaction with nature, each other and being in the fresh air can help break up the day.

In addition to the curriculum angling can tie in well with other subjects. Fishing can be linked to maths, giving pupils a practical understanding of measuring water depths and of buoyancy, using weights to balance floats. In Science they gain a good, hands-on, understanding of common plants and animals, and of photosynthesis.

Angling is a fantastically absorbing pastime that gets the students out in the fresh air, close to nature and provides a constant reward for a focused, patient approach to over coming lives challenges. I’m told that Smithills is the only school offering angling activities to its students, but with a little thought and planning there is no reason why other schools can’t develop a similar programme of activities.

If you're planning to go fishing make sure you have a valid rod licence, you can purchase one here, and remember under 12 can fish for free!

Alec Cottrill is head teacher at Smithills School, Bolton. He is also a passionate angler.

Sharing and comments

Share this page


  1. Comment by k checkley posted on

    Can you think of any other activity where a 12 year old has to be licenced? It's 17 to drive a car,16 for a motorbike, 18 to vote, 16 to marry with parental consent but a school child of 12 needs a licence to catch a perch! It's about time the EA raised the age for a licence to at least 16.

    • Replies to k checkley>

      Comment by Environment Agency posted on

      Hi, I we appreciate your comment and currently there are no plans to change. It is good practice for the future for the teenagers to pay for licences and it is £5.00. Cheers. ^Eileen

  2. Comment by Paul corrall posted on

    I agree with K Checkley, 12 is too young to be hold a rod licence. I suggest that 16 is more than an acceptable age to take responsibility for your own pass time and it's also an age when young people can start to earn their own money. Please EA, use your wisdom and encourage participation by relaxing the licencing requirements for young people, so the next generation can take up a past time that has given many so much pleasure for so long.

    • Replies to Paul corrall>

      Comment by Ian RS Marriott posted on

      30 years ago, a colleague and I founded and ran a fishing club at the school where we work, and it was a reasonable success, although not tied into the curriculum like the scheme mentioned above ,we tried to instil in our members the environmental impact of pollution be it rubbish and line discarded on the bank, or water-born from farm slurry, etc. in those days of course the rod license age was 16 and I think it was a very poor short sighted decision of the Environment Agency bean counters to lower the age to twelve. This I feel has had the effect of denying a whole generation of our young from the early wonders of being introduced to angling. The take a friend fishing idea has helped some young people get into the sport, but in no way redresses the balance that the 12 year olds license denied angling to those kids who didn't take it up. So come on EA put it back up to 16 if you want young people to take up angling. Because when they do, and carry on , you can get the full license money out of them for the rest of their angling lives! ( and satisfy the bean counters )

      • Replies to Ian RS Marriott>

        Comment by Environment Agency posted on

        Good morning, Thank you for your blog, I hope the following response answers you comments: We at the Environment Agency did not introduce a rod licence for under 16s. Junior licences were part of the licence structure of the 10 Regional Water Authorities that were combined to form the National Rivers Authority in 1989. One RWA even had a licence for under 10s. Juniors were required to buy the concessionary licence at usually half the cost of a full licence.

        In 2002 the Environment Agency created a separate junior licence at half of its previous value (£5 instead of £10 for a concessionary licence). The junior licence has remained at £5 since 2002. We are currently reviewing the rod licensing structure, and have identified several options for the junior licence, which we will be consulting on during the next 6 months. In the interim period of the consultation £5.00 is a good starting point for young people to realise that some hobbies and pastimes need a licence in order to carry out the activity of choice and sets them on the road to responsiblity. ^Eileen

    • Replies to Paul corrall>

      Comment by Tony posted on

      I agree with what Paul is saying. Lots of us would like to take our children and grandchildren fishing but you all know youngsters can change and it is then a waist of money. surely we should be able to let youngsters try it for a few times before we have to buy them a licence?

  3. Comment by Sam posted on

    I believe paying for a rod licence helps teach children about paying your way in life, not everything is free or a hand out.

  4. Comment by Steve Brennan posted on

    Unless we all give something back to fishing then the sport will die out its hard as it is to get the young into fishing but if you can get them to the water and they can catch fish they could be hooked for life, so let's give them a chance and let juniors fish for free till they are 16 come on EA it will not cost you that much

  5. Comment by lee posted on

    want to find out how to get my school involved..

  6. Comment by Johnathon Andrew posted on

    I agree with charging a fee at the age of 12. We are talking £5.00 for a year which is nothing.
    I also think this fishing in schools is fantastic and only wish I had the opportunity to do it as a child.
    Maybe if more schools got involved they could organise events for kids so they didn't need a licence then when hooked they get one

  7. Comment by Dan posted on

    £5 is less than a you pay for a child to have 1 hour in a soft play centre or for a McDonald's. I work in a school and we have a fishing club, our pupils have the opertunity to earn privaliges such as fishing through a merit system where they are recognised for effort or achievement etc. We are happy to fund the low rod licence fee and so are all the parents. The benefits of fishing for children's social, emotional and mental health are great. It links in so many areas and into most core subjects in schools that it serves to inspire their interest in these subjects. Pupils have gone on to work in countryside related jobs, taken college courses relating to agriculture and fisheries.
    We are all guilty of spending too much time on mobile devices, I'm sat typing this on my mobile! Fishing is one of the few things I've seen that keeps a mobile phone out of a kids hand for any length of time. In this day and age that alone is priceless


Leave a comment

We only ask for your email address so we know you're a real person

By submitting a comment you understand it may be published on this public website. Please read our privacy notice to see how the GOV.UK blogging platform handles your information.