A couple of weeks ago my Mum found my DofE book from 1986. I remember some of my Bronze Award from the cooking to the first aid and I definitely remember the monster-sized blisters on my heels at the end of a very hot 2-day expedition. I got a satisfactory for that expedition so I clearly had some work to do!
Roll on 32 years and I am now not only instructing and assessing DofE participants from the start of their DofE journey at Bronze through to Gold and very proudly handing out certificates to Gold Award achievers at Buckingham and St James’s Palace. Who’d have thought this satisfactory girl would kick her inner lazy into touch to climb mountains and hopefully inspire some of our next generation of adventurers.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) has been running for 62 years now and has had a hugely positive impact on many millions of youngsters around the world in those years. I was fortunate enough to go to the Diamond Anniversary Service of Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey in November 2016 and listened to not only The Earl of Wessex give a heartfelt speech but heard from DofE Award holders of how their DofE programme has had an impact on their lives, one of whom had been a young offender and has since gone on the straight and narrow thanks, in part, to the structure and learning opportunities given by the DofE and those involved.
When I was invited to present for the first time at St James’s Palace in November 2015, my now dearly departed Father jokingly (in part I’m sure) asked me to give his regards to the Duke and say ‘you’ve done a grand job Sir’. I obviously didn’t but I totally understand my Father’s sentiments.
Since its creation in 1956 over 2.7 million students in the UK between the ages of 14 and 24 have been presented with their DofE Award from over 6 million starters including over 1.7 million Bronze, 660,000 Silver and 276,000 Gold Award holders. From the students who start their DofE journey, 4.5% are presented with their Gold Award.
A Gold Award is challenging for a good reason, it’s not called a Gold Award for nothing. Most students will go through their Gold during their A level years, so time is at a premium and the pressure is on. It takes dedication and commitment to work towards this award through the five elements which include a 4-day expedition, 5-day residential, 12-month volunteering, and physical and skills elements which are 12 and 6 months long, each for a day per week as an average.
So why do students put themselves through this during their hardest school years? Because they want to be part of that 4.5% and to have something truly amazing on their CV and have something truly amazing in their lives. A Gold Award holds gravitas. Universities take into account the hard work that doing a DofE programme takes to complete, employers take into account the commitment it takes to complete, and the students really understand the dedication that they need to put in to be part of that small percentage.
When I climbed Everest in 2015 I didn’t want the climb just to be about one mountain and me, but to be about others too and to be able to give a great opportunity to share Nepal and our acclimatisation with a group of six Gold DofE participants. As their residential we trekked to Everest Base Camp and climbed 6000m peak Lobuche East (amongst a great team of friends and clients) and all six students benefited hugely from this experience. I will be posting up their stories on my website shortly, they are all truly inspiring in themselves.
If you have a teenager who is looking to do that bit extra or if you have employees who are looking to push themselves that bit farther then get them to sign up for their Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. From doing my Bronze Award when I was 15 to seeing it all from an instructor’s viewpoint and assessing all three Award levels as part of my work with Adventure Training & Expeditions, and for the last three years presenting at the Gold Awards in my 40’s, I can guarantee is it totally worth it.