In 1998 The Fishmongers’ Company was instrumental in establishing the Billingsgate Seafood Training School (BSTS), with the assistance of the Corporation of London and the London Fish Merchants Association. A charitable company, it also received start up grants from the Sir John Cass Foundation, the Sea Fish Industry Authority and the London Dockland Development Corporation. The school is governed by a Board of Trustees, the present Chairman of which is a member of the Court of the Fishmongers’ Company, and the Company’s Chief Fisheries Inspector is its Company Secretary.
The founding principles of the school were threefold: to demonstrate to children and young people the importance of seafood in the diet; to keep alive the fishmongering skills now widely lost to the industry and to promote to the public the health benefits of seafood – all of these aims are achieved daily thanks to the busy and involved cookery courses offered by the school.
The school opened its doors in 2000 and its activities grew steadily during its first 6 years of operation. Shrewd management of the school’s finances during that period along with a Defra grant from the FIFG fund enabled the school’s kitchen area to be completely refurbished, increasing the opportunities for hands on preparation and cooking and immediately attracting a great deal of interest from the public; courses are now fully booked well in advance. More importantly the school’s success in its commercial operations has boosted the school’s revenue, allowing it to offer more free courses to schoolchildren. These courses have proved so popular with the children that schools are trying to re-book as soon as their current teaching session is completed. Due to this demand, BSTS has started an Outreach programme recently, sending trainers into schools and enabling BSTS to get the message across to far more children about the benefits of eating seafood than would be possible otherwise. So successful is the programme for schoolchildren that in 2009 over 3,500 children attended a free course at the school.
BSTS has proved a catalyst in providing the motivation for several new businesses as a result of people wishing to begin a career in the industry attending one of the industry start-up courses, such as ‘Get into Fishmongering’. The school is also a part of the National Seafood Training Academy and is therefore at the forefront of helping to develop the new Modules of assessment that are to replace the existing NVQ programme later this year.
The Fishmongers’ Company is very much hands-on in its support for the school and its staff is actively involved at the market in helping make the courses such a success. Furthermore several of the liverymen and Court members of the Company are trustees of the school and take pride in the enjoyment it brings to so many young people and the energetic part the school plays at the heart of Billingsgate.
For information about the courses on offer visit the school’s website www.seafoodtraining.org or call 020 7517 3548