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State school took children as young as EIGHT on shooting trip to teach them about the countryside

19 September 2013 8,463 views No Comment

By Sarah Harris
13 September 2013
shootingPupils from Eastbourne’s West Rise Junior School spent a day shooting Youngsters were given shotguns to shoot live rounds at clay pigeons Head Mike Fairclough wanted the children aged 8-11 to learn self-discipline said they deserved same opportunities as rich children at private schools
Equal chances: Mike Fairclough, head of West Rise Junior School in Eastbourne, sent his pupils to learn how to shoot
A state school sparked a furious row today after admitting it took pupils as young as eight on a day’s shooting trip.
Thirty children from West Rise Junior School in Eastbourne aged eight to 11 were handed shotguns and taught how to shoot at clay pigeons with live ammunition.
It was part of an event organised run by instructors from the British Association for Shooting and Conservation to help educate the youngsters about the countryside.
But the move has been condemned by anti-guns campaigners, who argue that a young child is not mature enough to handle a weapon.
Head teacher, Mike Fairclough, said the day’s shooting in July helped educate children about the food chain and instilled skills such as self-discipline and commitment to a task.
He told the Times Educational Supplement: ‘We need to get beyond the Victorian, behind-desks model of education and get children actively involved.
‘We are a successful school, rated good with excellent features by inspectors, because we teach this way.’
Mr Fairclough said he also wanted to promote equal opportunities, as his catchment has a large proportion of children entitled to Free School Meals, an indicator of poverty.
He wanted these children to have equal access to the opportunities, normally reserved for private school children.
He said: ‘It’s about trust. We trust independent school children everywhere to shoot at this age, so why do we not trust children at state-run schools?
‘Just because parents have more money, that does not mean the kids are any more reliable.’
Mr Fairclough insisted that all the parents supporting the school’s shooting day.
‘There will always be those who disagree,’ he said.
‘But people should be trusted with the full picture on the issue so they can make an informed judgement. You never know, people may come to a conclusion that they previously didn’t think possible.’
BASC spokesman Simon Clarke stressed the organisation runs events like this for children regularly and its instructors were trained to the highest of standards.
He said: ‘We’re not talking about Bill from the pub teaching them how to shoot. Our guys have very strict assessment procedures.
‘Everything was under supervision, everything was safe, everything was responsible, and police approval was given for shooting on the land.’
Mr Clarke added the youngsters were given instruction in how to use shotguns ranging in size from between 20 to 28 bore depending on the child using it.
The shotguns have the capability to kill a small animal, such as a rabbit or a pigeon, although no live targets were used on the day.
But Gill Marshall-Andrews of the UK’s Gun Control Network condemned teaching young children to shoot.
He said: ‘GCN is absolutely committed to keeping guns away from children.
Mr Fairclough said parents at the school, which is rated ‘good’ by Ofsted, supported the day trip
‘Guns are dangerous weapons, which are frequently misused. No child should be taught to shoot until the age of 18 when they assume adult rights and responsibilities.’
Margaret Morrissey, founder of the family pressure group, Parents Outloud, added: ‘I’m sure parents would agree that there are better places to take children such as sailing and climbing.
‘I really think we’re going down a dangerous road when we start introducing youngsters to guns or any sort of weapons and expecting them to understand that these are for recreational purposes – some will and a lot won’t. We are putting information that may not be backed up with the right kind of support at home into very young children’s hands.’
The Preparatory Schools Rifle Association (PSRA) currently works with 43 prep schools and has 39 prep school members in the UK.Mary Eveleigh, secretary of the PSRA, said that shooting teaches children to control their emotions and to think about the consequences of their actions.She said: ‘There is no legal or physical barrier to teaching shooting from a young age, so why delay?
‘The benefits that shootings bring are as applicable to younger students as older ones; and there is an argument that the younger the benefits and skills that come from shooting are instilled, the better the long-term impact.’
David Hanson, chief executive of the Independent Association of Prep Schools, added: ‘With niche sports such as archery and clay pigeon shooting, children can find an area outside the classroom where they can excel, which can be incredibly rewarding and also builds their confidence to be the best they can be across the entire curriculum.’

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