The Duke of Edinburgh Award
The Duke of Edinburgh Award is a program that young people can work towards giving them an ambitious, personalised experience. It allows students the chance to discover new interests and develop essential skills for life and work whilst pushing themselves out of their comfort zone. Achieving a DofE Award isn’t a competition or about being first. All students can opt into the DofE Award in Key Stage 4 from Bronze Level as part of the enrichment curriculum.
A DofE Award is all about setting personal challenges and pushing personal boundaries. Through a DofE programme young people have fun, improve their self-esteem, and build confidence. They gain essential skills and attributes for work and life such as resilience, problem-solving, team-working, communication, and drive, enhancing CVs and job applications. It is a recognised mark of achievement and respected by many employers and education establishments. The DofE Award program supports student’s spiritual, moral, and social growth within a structured and safe environment through challenging them to be the best they can be.
The DofE Award program is designed and focused around four key areas; physical, skill, volunteering, and expedition with a fifth section at Gold Level of residential. These sections are flexible in choice of activity and student-centred where goals and challenges are set in collaboration with the teachers and teaching assistants. The award is offered at The Oswaldtwistle School as many students would find it difficult to get the right support needed to access a DofE Award outside of the school environment. The supportive relationships with staff members and level of support ensures students succeed.
The opportunity to work towards a DofE Award is much more than an addition to a CV. Students are encouraged to choose enriching and positive choices and to not take the easiest activities. Students have the chance to use local facilities within the surrounding communities where appropriate. During the expedition section students can experience the.
For the DofE Award students have one double lesson and a single lesson a week. These are focused on the volunteering, skill, and physical sections where students complete their chosen activities towards the different sections. Students meet with their DofE Award leader at the start of their DofE Award to complete a program planner for the sections of physical, skill and volunteering to set targets. These activities will be suitable for their current ability in that activity and will be checked by staff that there is enough of a challenge, and it meets DofE Award guidance. When appropriate students will have access to a series of expedition skills lesson which covers the DofE Award training framework ready for the practice and qualifying expeditions at the bronze award level. The DofE Award is led by a DofE manager who is supported by an operations officer from Central DofE Award Office through training and meetings.
The three main sections are student-led and students build their skills through the sections with support of their teaching assistant and DofE Award teacher. Each student’s journey through their DofE is individual to them. It might be encouraging students to develop more independence with a skill like cooking or trying a new food or it could be to swim more lengths in a session to increase their stamina. The expedition section is planned to build up skills over a longer period to allow students to feel confident going on the expedition. This training is based on the DofE Award expedition framework and is designed to build independence. Students do have a variation in place where they will get the support, they need to complete the practice and qualifying expedition whilst still being a challenge. This is supported by the DofE Award through a variations form and is flexible depending on student’s ability.
Throughout the DofE Award students have many enrichment opportunities due to the nature of the award. This could be trying a new skill or physical activity or a volunteering opportunity in the community depending on the award level and ability of the student. Students that are gifted in certain areas could be challenged by joining a club outside of school or working towards awards for that activity. The expedition section provides an opportunity for students to experience the outdoors in a safe environment with support to be successful. Many students find the unpredictability of the expedition section challenging due to their additional needs. This is carefully considered in the way expeditions are planned and carried out.
Student progress is firstly assessed through completion of program planner sheet and a tracker kept of completed sessions to ensure that students complete sufficient hours. For the expedition students have a log sheet that is completed after each training session and a sign off sheet once each part of the training is completed. Students overall progress is logged on the e-DofE system where the evidence to complete a section is a short assessor’s report filled out online. For expedition the assessor must be an accredited assessor as per DofE rules. When students have finished their award, they are presented with a badge and certificate. If students are unable to complete all sections of the DofE Award this achievement can be recognised through sectional certificates.
The DofE Award has an impact upon students because it gives them a learning experience outside of the typical classroom environment. It allows students to develop their own interests and be in control of their own learning which can be personalised specifically to them. It provides a purposeful and meaningful qualification without the academic pressures. The DofE Award is about succeeding rather than failing.
The DofE Award has many impacts on student’s future post The Oswaldtwistle School. From the skills, physical and volunteer section it introduces new interests and activities to students which may spark an interest they carry on past The Oswaldtwistle School. These activities could contribute to a career pathway for example working in a charity shop as part of the volunteering section could lead to gaining a job in a retail shop. The expedition section promotes students being able to be more independent and build emotional resilience by putting themselves outside of their comfort zone alongside the actual navigation and campcraft skills.
Overall a DofE Award develops student’s confidence, builds resilience, demands commitment and motivation. The DofE Award can then allow students to feel more able in their other academic studies and life. Many students experience failure before attending The Oswaldtwistle School and DofE Award helps to change this. Several students have shown that through developing their confidence and resilience they have been able to tackle situations in other parts of their life including academic studies and sitting exams which they previously would have not been able to do.