Luss Primary School, on the shores of Loch Lomond, has taken a highly prestigious award in the British Animal Honours, to be shown on primetime STV tonight.
This is in recognition of the school’s successful participation in the trail-blazing ‘Powan in the Classroom’ project, run by the Loch Lomond Fisheries Trust (LLFT). Powan are one of the rarest fish in the UK, with the population in Loch Lomond in serious long term decline.
The British Animal Honours 2013 awards show, hosted by comedian Paul O’Grady, has a BAFTA-type format. Five of the Luss P7 children, two teachers and Dr Andy Burrows of the Loch Lomond Fisheries Trust [LLFT] were invited to London for the recording of the show at Elstree last week. It is broadcast on STV at 8.00pm tonight, Thursday 18 April.
Andy Burrows, Senior Biologist of the LLFT, says: ‘Powan are extremely difficult to rear in artificial conditions and this was the first time ever that they have been successfully reared in this way by anyone. The Luss children deserve the highest plaudits for doing so. Powan are an aquatic equivalent of the red squirrel, threatened in Loch Lomond by an alien invader – the ruffe fish.
‘Our ‘Powan in the Classroom’ project provides a hands-on learning experience involving children in local schools rearing powan eggs by incubating them in a small classroom hatchery for about six weeks – during which time they learn about the ecology of the fish, the threats it faces and the biodiversity of Loch Lomond. The highlight is at the end of the project when the children release the young fish back into the wild.
‘One of the most important elements of this project is that the children learn firsthand about the damaging impact of non-native species and the importance of not introducing them. It is also special because the children feel they are contributing directly towards a real world conservation programme and making a difference.’
Francis Antonelli, class teacher at Luss Primary School, says: ‘This was a true learning experience for the class. Watching the powan hatch gave the children a real sense of achievement. They felt they had become part of saving an endangered species.’
This charismatic project first attracted media coverage in 2010. In 2011 Luss Primary School’s ‘Powan in the Classroom’ project was a winner in the prestigious National Green School Awards – described as ‘an inspirational environmental education project.’
The chairman of Total’s Green Education programme (a worldwide programme) nominated Luss Primary School for the British Animal Honours 2013, which they have now won. The judging panel included Chris Packham from the BBC’s Springwatch and Autumnwatch programmes and Virginia McKenna.
Callum Sinclair, Director of the Rivers and Fisheries Trusts of Scotland (RAFTS), says: ‘This represents a great achievement for the children of Luss Primary School.
‘LLFT and it is an excellent example of the innovative and important education work undertaken by rivers and fisheries trusts in Scotland to support and protect our native species and iconic fish and fisheries.’
The achievement in successfully rearing the powan and the national recognition of their work at this level could not demonstrate more vividly the insanity of Argyll and Bute Council’s determination, only a couple of years ago, to close this exemplary rural primary school and transport its children to a very large school in Argyll’s largest town of Helensburgh, over nine miles away.