Head defends shooting as a school sport

West Rise School Langney Eastbourne. June 26th 2013 E26161P
West Rise School Langney Eastbourne. June 26th 2013 E26161P

The head teacher of an Eastbourne school who came under fire for allowing children as young as eight to take part in clay pigeon shooting has defended his decision.

Mike Fairclough, the head at West Rise Junior School, says the activity is a national sport and Britain holds the Olympic gold medal for shooting.

He also warned children will have “no experiences” if they are wrapped up in cotton wool.

Mr Fairclough was criticised by anti-gun groups after taking his pupils on a countryside activities day, which included shooting.

Other activities during the July school day, on the school’s own 120 acres of marshland in Sevenoaks Road, included fly fishing, working with gun dogs, bird watching and learning about habitats.

In stories in the national media and on television, anti-gun groups condemned the school and teacher.

The Gun Control Network branded the day as “dangerous” while group Parents Outloud said he was “heading down a dangerous path”.

The head teacher said he stood by his decision and would have “no problem” doing the same again.

He said, “We don’t need to wrap everyone up in cotton wool saying ‘don’t do this and don’t do that’. The way we are going children will have no experiences to look back on. We give children stainless steel knives at lunchtime.

“Knives are used to kill people with. Are we going to ban knives? All humans in general are good people who make the right decisions.”

The school is rated good with excellent features by Ofsted, something Mr Fairclough attributes to his methods.

He said, “I believe in what I’m doing. I will carry on regardless. However, if the media continues to make a big deal out of schools trying something different then they just won’t bother.

“And the idea that I’ve got angry parents outside the school gates with pitchforks is ridiculous.”

Critics also said junior school children should not be introduced to guns.

But Mr Fairclough said British Olympic gold medallist Peter Wilson was introduced to the sport at age seven.

He added, “Shooting is a national sport for which Britain holds the Olympic gold medal. He also said Amber Hill, now 16, who is the youngest winner of a senior World Cup in her sport, started shooting at the age of nine.

Mr Fairclough said the shooting activity had an educational remit at the state-funded school which served two council estates.

The school also has sheep, chicken, pigs, goats and water buffalo on its grounds which the children help to look after.

Experts coached the pupils who each used a small shotgun to fire four shots at clay discs from a secure cage, he said.

The children were taught about gun law, safety, use of guns in the countryside, and consequences of misuse, he added.

He said no-one had complained to him about the activity but there had been an ‘illusion that’s there’s been a big row’ following media reports.