Going for Gold

21st November 2019

The Duke of Edinburgh Award (DofE) scheme teaches young people how to learn new skills, help others in their community, have fun and make new friends. Completing the award gives young people a great sense of achievement and is also really valued by employers, colleges and universities.

Queen Katherine School (QKS) in Kendal recognised the importance of inclusivity, irrespective of circumstance or background but due to limitations, previously had to cap the numbers of students that could enrol onto the programme. It decided to make the DofE part of the Year 9 wider curriculum offer and enable the whole year group to do their DofE at Bronze level. Up to 170 students each year take part in the Bronze, Silver and Gold levels of the Award.

The Queen Katherine School Association is a group of parents and staff who fundraise for the school. In 2019, a grant of £3,242 from Castle Green Grassroots Fund, Holehird Trust Fund and Russell Armer Fund helped the school to support disadvantaged students to access the scheme and take part in expeditions, irrespective of financial circumstances or background.

Students have completed two expeditions, taking in Scotland, the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales, and experienced walking and camping in the outdoors, many for the first time. At the end of each expedition, students gave a presentation to the school’s Expedition Co-ordinator, which provided an opportunity for feedback on the experience. Since taking part in the DofE scheme, many of the students have continued with their outdoor activities, such as climbing, hill walking, mountaineering and running.

The students also volunteered in a wide range of settings including sports clubs, charity shops, youth organisations and in care settings, giving 200 hours of support. The activities improved health and fitness, as did taking part in regular sporting activities. The group gained new skills and hobbies outside the curriculum, all of which increased self-confidence and resilience.

One extraordinary young lady who is visually impaired successfully completed her Silver Award. Her self-confidence has massively improved, learning to move out of her comfort zone to experience and overcome new challenges. Her expedition group received training to assist her when walking on rough ground. As part of her volunteering she was an anti-bullying ambassador at the school, for her physical challenge, she ran the Fellfoot Park Run each week and for her skill she continued to write a book.

Michael Norton, Queen Katherine School Association, said: “Completion of the award can improve employment opportunities and university or college admission. The Gold Award is recognised by many employers as a significant achievement, showing leadership and resilience skills. We are very proud of their achievements.”

Inclusivity should mean that everyone gets a chance to take part. The school took away barriers that were preventing some of its students – costs was the obvious one, but confidence was a very close second.