Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme

April 28, 2021

What would be a more fitting legacy than to relaunch the excellent Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) award scheme following the death of its patron.

Not an adult to be seen

With government support (even legislation) it could be significant driver for reversing the increasing physical and mental problems of our young. Fresh air, exercise, new skills, group work with friends, understanding of the countryside are just some of the many benefits.

I have always held the view that the DofE scheme is excellent. There is little wrong with the present format and the skills that are learned. The issue is not the scheme but how it is administered. In particular it is generally beholden on teachers or guide/scout leaders to give up their free time to help the girls/boys, both in teaching the skills and then managing the process.

DofE worldwide, not just UK

Over the years the scheme is becoming less popular, certainly in this country. Generally it is being offered simply on the basis of the individual passion of the head teacher/leader and outside volunteers. This tends to happen more in private schools where extra curricula activity is more encouraged or the emergence of outside private companies who charge relatively large sums of money to operate the scheme.

The result of this of course is a social divide. Those with the money are more likely to get the opportunity (or afford to get the opportunity) to take the DofE challenge than those who do not. In an age where we are increasingly desperate to get our school children away from technology and home life and to experience more about life this is very sad.

Out in the Dales

For those who do not know the details of DofE here is a potted summary

  • It is for ages 14 to 18 and consists of 3 separate schemes, Bronze, Silver and Gold
  • It can be organized via school, guides/scouts and other outdoor authorities
  • At each level there are 3 main elements:
  • The first is an expedition, from 1 to 3 nights outdoors. The participants will have planned and followed a route (mainly walking but it could be by canals/rivers and other methods of carry.
    • The important thing on the expedition is they are self sufficient in a group of 4 friends. ‘Teachers’ are on hand but generally out of sight and influence.
    • They have planned the route, carried their supplies/kit which includes camping and cooking supplies.
  • The second task is to volunteer for a job over a minimum 3 month period. My daughter at present is helping with the young at Rainbows.
  • The third task is to learn a new skill. This could be fairly much anything. My daughter is presently looking at setting up a blog for cricket analysis and opinion.
Camping in the Outdoors

The benefits of all this for the 14 to 17 year old are many fold.

  • They have learnt new skills different from those learned in normal school life.
  • Worked as part of a small team to achieve a purpose.
  • Understood how to behave in a countryside setting.
  • Appreciate the outdoors and the benefits of fresh air and exercise.
  • Created memories they will never forget.

It is always the extra curricula activity that many of us remember from our school days. I did not do DofE (wished I did) but I remember school trips clearly. It may not be immediately obvious to the child at the time but the memories stored and experiences learnt will without doubt be useful in future life.

Learn to be happy in the countryside

The death of the Duke of Edinburgh offers a wonderful opportunity to relaunch the scheme with some legislation and finance to make it viable. The scheme itself (the 3 tasks) are spot on. There is no need to change them. However there is a need to ensure that all children get the opportunity to join it. What can be done?

  • Make it part of a child’s education that once a year from age 12 that someone comes in (or a qualified teacher) talks to the children for an hour on the scheme and what it is. Ignorance of the scheme should be no excuse.
  • Train teachers the principals of the DofE award and the admin. Treat it as a mini subject and if teachers time cannot be found within the timetable pay extra hours.
  • On the expedition ensure there are suitable qualified (probably parent) volunteers to provide back up to the teachers.
  • The scheme should be entirely free and available for all. It should not be offered out to private profiteering companies or individuals.
Exploring the outdoors

The Glover Report, published in 2018, made many statements on the future of our national parks but one of them was that every child should have the opportunity to spend a night under canvas in the outdoors. There was much scepticism on how this could be achieved but tying it in with DofE would make it a much more realistic ambition.

No doubt many will believe the relaunch ‘too much effort’, ‘not realistic’ but the rewards are immeasurable. It is not just about producing more rounded children with a more varied skill set but it is also about improving the education system to ensure there is more to school than exams. The additional benefit of getting more children exercising in the fresh air and understanding the countryside would be worth it on its own.

Learning Navigation skills

I have seen more children out on the hills doing DofE, they would not be there otherwise. I have seen groups of DofE children hopelessly lost, attempting (and often failing) to put up tents, cooking an outdoor meal or simply being battered by some inclement weather. However I have never seen any that are unhappy. There is always a smile or laugh close by. And why not. They are in the fresh air, they are with their friends and they are about to chive something really worthwhile.

The Duke of Edinburgh has died but may his legacy last far in to the future.

Enjoy you walking

Jonathan

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