The Duke of Edinburgh Award (DofE) Scheme, which celebrates its Diamond Anniversary in 2016, claims to ‘leave a footprint on the lives of young people, opening doors to new jobs, cementing life-long friendships, broadening interests and stretching horizons.’ King Edward’s Witley has been running the Awards for well over 25 years.
Delvin K Poulter – Deputy Head, Director of Co-curriculum at King Edward’s, has invested 30 years in running the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, the last 25 at King Edward’s. An ardent fan of the scheme, he talks here about the benefits of getting involved.
“The DofE programme provides our pupils with a unique opportunity to expand their skills beyond the classroom and represents an early step towards independence, teaching key life skills outside of the security of the family unit. Working through the awards – Bronze, Silver and Gold – will arm our children with different talents and sports, as well as introduce them to the benefits of volunteer work and the advantages of active participation in the local community.
“The fact that so much of the DofE programme is funded by large companies is indicative of the value these businesses’ place on the scheme and we know that a DofE Award can often be the deciding factor that sets one candidate apart from another when competition space for university places is rife.
“Our belief in the outstanding benefits of taking a pupil through the DofE Awards has led to the School lending significant support to the programme. We have a number of very experienced staff running the scheme; five help out at an operational level and with the associated admin and we have further full-time staff involved as assessors. In terms of hard evidence to demonstrate how the awards can help a child, there are endless examples to cite. For instance, a pupil with known behavioral problems can thrive within the DofE culture and become inspired by their involvement in such a worthwhile scheme, in particular, exposing such children to the challenges of an expedition can truly represent a turning point. We have also seen how the awards help hone the right type of leadership skills. So a child who might be a leader by acting the class clown, is suddenly transformed into a leader as a result of his/her sensible approach to a demanding situation. Equally, the physical training associated with the DofE programme ensures that we are actively discouraging the couch potato mentality that is becoming so prevalent amongst young people today. And of course it is satisfying to be able to offer practical support to a number of causes, to further cement our status as a key player in the local community.”
From Year nine, pupils at King Edward’s are encouraged to take up the DofE challenge and there is a compulsory camping weekend which forms part of the expedition requirement for the Bronze Award, resulting in as many as 85-90% of those who start the awards scheme at this stage going on to sign up for the full programme.