The mission of Skerries for Schools, informally known as S4S, is simple. It is to enable as many youngsters as possible to discover the discipline and excitement of rowing, and the pleasure of being out on a river.
The programme provides a very economical way of achieving this purpose. A boat in which eight people can row is expensive. Secondary schools in the state system may be unable to afford such a boat, in this case a skerry, just for the use of their own pupils who will use it for only a fraction of the available time in the summer.
The central principle of Skerries for Schools is to provide for our purpose two skerries (much better than one, making possible the excitement of a race).
The boats are moored at a location on a river, initially the Thames, within range of as many local schools as possible, each of them able to reserve the boats as often as they wish. The pilot scheme, launched in 2014 in Richmond-upon-Thames, involved seven secondary schools in the borough. The boats therefore became seven times more fully used than if owned by an individual school and the only expense for the schools is a modest fee each time their pupils use one or both boats.
In 2016 plans were approved for S4S to expand it’s operations into the borough of Kingston to allow even more school children to benefit from the hugely inclusive activity of rowing.
The eight rowers in a skerry sit in pairs side by side on four thwarts – a much less lonely experience than one behind another as in most sporting boats. A skerry has ample room for the coxswain and a couple of passengers too! Master Boatbuilder Mark Edwards MBE describes his boat in more detail.