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Milton Abbey students take part in the school’s pheasant shoot

PUBLISHED: 11:30 09 January 2017

Pupils from the Countryside Management Course with the days bag

Pupils from the Countryside Management Course with the days bag

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Magnus Bashaarat, head of Milton Abbey School, reveals the importance of team work and gaining practical experience outside the classroom on the school’s pheasant shoot. Photo by Sukey Fenwick

Most schools like to think they offer something distinctive that sets them apart from other educational establishments but at Milton Abbey School there does appear to be something that is truly unique: a school pheasant shoot. This has been established as a practical teaching aid for pupils studying Countryside Management courses and features all the roles involved in making a shoot a successful event – including shoot Captain, beater, picker up and keeper.

Milton Abbey School hosts five shoot days during the season (October to end of January), with the full cooperation of our neighbours. These are run by pupils studying Countryside Management courses in the sixth form, and fourth and fifth formers studying Countryside and Environment BTEC, with the help of staff and a gamekeeper.

The areas covered by the courses include game bird production, game management, shoot management, estate skills, fire arms, woodland management, working dogs, pest and predator control. All of these modules are taught practically throughout the season in real time along with the relevant class room theory work. Safety of all participants is paramount and the importance of maintaining shooting’s vital rules, codes of practice, traditions and etiquette is reinforced at every opportunity.

From catching up birds for the laying pens, overseeing the laying process, rearing, husbandry, maintenance and everything in-between, right up to the shoot days, the pupils are very much hands on. As the season approaches pupils plan the shoot days, this includes all the logistics, staffing and catering requirements. Shoot invitations are sent directly from the pupils to the guns - Milton Abbey parents, alumni of the school, local landowners, the Forestry Commission and neighbours - with the first invitations sent to their own parents.

This year one of those invited was Anthony Rhodes whose son has just started the Countryside Management course. “Running a shoot myself I am fully aware of what hard work it can be,” said Anthony. “To take part in this day was a truly wonderful experience and shows the children what teamwork, planning and preparation can do.”

The first shoot of the season is when all the hours of classroom learning come into practice as Gamekeeper and Countryside Management technician Kevin Hurst explains. “Our first shoot day is always a cascade of ‘eureka’ moments for pupils when theory suddenly becomes reality. The relevance of habitat management, release pen design and functionality, feeding regimes, predator control all becomes relevant. Education does not get any more interactive than this. The bag for the first day this season was 24 pheasant for 86 shots which for our humble shoot is a very reasonable result.”

Capability Brown’s distinctive landscape provides a stunning backdrop to a day’s shooting and concludes with guns and beaters dining together at Milton Abbey in front of a roaring fire.

These shoot days are really special, it is when we see our Countryside Management pupils grow in knowledge, confidence and stature. It is quite a moment when birds that pupils and staff have reared from day one are flying high and fast over the guns. Above all it is a pleasure to see proud students and even prouder parents enjoy a day of shooting, extremely safely and with real respect for our beautiful environment. And on the last day of the season Countryside Management students experience the shoot as clients and switch roles and become guns for the day – a worthy reward for all their hard work.

Milton Abbey School is a fully co-ed day and boarding school (13 – 18) set in glorious rolling landscape designed by Capability Brown. Open Days: Saturday 4 March Lower School (Years 9-11); Friday 17 March Taster Day for entry to Year 9 in 2017/18; Saturday 13 May Lower School (Years 9-11); November 2017 (Sixth Form). Scholarships available, (closing date 13 January 2017). See website for details miltonabbey.co.uk or call Head of Admissions Claire Low on 01258 882182.

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Meet the head: Magnus Bashaarat at Milton Abbey School - Set in a 100 glorious acres of Capability Brown designed grounds Milton Abbey gives its pupils a well rounded education that plays to their strengths, as its head master Magnus Bashaarat reveals

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