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Cast about for a GCSE

When wading through options, pupils could do worse than hook an angling qualification

the riverbank was not mentioned this week when Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, called for more learning outside the classroom. But with their rods, waders and maggots, that is where pupils from one school will be enjoying their fishing studies.

The 20 boys and girls from River Leen school, Nottingham, are the first in the country to embark on the National Federation of Angling (NFA) course, which could land them a GCSE-equivalent qualification.

As well as technical aspects of casting and choosing bait, the angling and the environment course includes studies of the water cycle and photosynthesis.

It is run once a week as an after-school club, but Liz Churton, the headteacher, said its success could lead to it finding a place on the timetable soon.

"It's so cross-curricular, I think it could become an option," she said.

"The course includes elements of science, geography, numeracy and literacy.

It's about re-engaging pupils. We have to look at the rigour of the assessment, but I think it's something we can offer."

The 20-week course is being led by the school's site manager, Ian Coates, a keen angler and qualified coach, and Keith Dyson, a humanities teacher.

"I've run a fishing club at the school for five years, so when this came along I jumped at the opportunity," said Mr Coates. "If you put kids in a classroom and tell them they are learning about the environment, they can switch off. But doing it through angling is totally different and fun."

The first 17 weeks are confined to the classroom, while pupils get to grips with fish anatomy and the countryside code. But Mr Coates has promised pupils a visit to a river after six weeks to reward their hard work.

Pupils take a written exam and three-hour assessment of their skills. The course is accredited by the National Open College Network and pupils achieving a level two qualification earn the equivalent of a GCSE A to C grade.

Although being piloted at River Leen with only 17 boys and 3 girls from Years 7 to 11, the angling federation hopes to introduce it to schools and youth clubs across the country.

"We've had interest from about 40 groups and we want to talk to as many young people as possible because they are the future of the sport" a spokesman said.

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