Dear Year 10 students and parents/carers
I am writing to you regarding the Duke of Edinburgh’s (DofE) Bronze Award. Apologies that this is later than I would normally be contacting students but this year has certainly brought, and continues to bring, unprecedented challenges. As things stand all I can do is tell you what I do know and outline a couple of possible scenarios of how things might play out over the rest of this academic year.
Firstly, if you were interested in exploring what DofE is about please go the DofE website Do DofE - The Duke of Edinburgh's Award. In short there are four parts to the Award – a physical section, a volunteering section, a skills section and an expedition section. As a school we have always worked to enable students to access the expedition section, as this needs to be done as part of a team and involve a training programme and have an accredited assessor. All the other sections are down to individuals to sort out and require students to do a minimum of an hour of their chosen activities per week over a period of 3 or 6 months (one of the activities needs to cover 6 months, the other two activities 3 months). To gain their badge and certificate for the whole Award students need to have completed all 4 sections by their 25th birthday (in reality students tend to complete it in Year 10 or Year 11). The DofE website has activity planners for each section giving suggestions of a range of suitable activities.
The expedition section is where the difficulty and the great unknown lies. In a ‘normal’ year we would have a number of after school and a couple of weekend training sessions in the Spring term followed by taking the students out on the summer enrichment days for a practice expeditions over two days and one night. A qualifying expedition over two days then takes place on a weekend in early October. The location for these expeditions are in around Bakewell and in and around Edale. This traditional structure is clearly one that we cannot run this year.
Keen not to disadvantage our young people any further than they have been in so many ways in 2020, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme have launched a series of tweaks on the traditional DofE programme – DofE with a difference. Basically the organisation are looking at how to enable young people to achieve their Award. The skills, volunteering and physical sections can carry on as per normal, providing all social distancing is adhered to and a risk assessment undertaken, where necessary. The students will receive a section certificate as and when each section is completed. To attain the full award the students need to complete the expedition element too. This isn’t something that can be simply done by going for a walk with friends or family – there is an element of planning, equipment carrying and self-sufficiency and therefore requires the support of an organisation such as a school or Scout group. We are also limited in terms of numbers, even in normal years, so in the event of us being able to offer the expeditions this will need to be within manageable numbers.
So where does this leave us for now in terms of moving forwards? At this moment in time we have just exited the second national lockdown but gone straight into tier 3. As things stand we cannot do the expedition part for the current year 10s. We hope this will change in the future in such a timescale that we can arrange the planning and training and expedition, whilst working around the GCSE exams in the summer. With exams being later than normal this year we do have a narrower timeframe in which to operate. If we are able to safely plan in training and an expedition we will of course do so. The situation though will depend on the national and local picture and guidance from school (in terms of a risk assessment) and Public Health England.
For now you don’t need to do anything. If your son/daughter would like to be considered for enrolment I would suggest they first have a look on the DofE website at the type of activities that they could do. I will contact you again in January regarding enrolment. When I contact you in January I will not know anything further with regards the possible expeditions. Enrolments at this stage will be on the basis that we may or may not be able to offer the expedition section. In terms of cost there will be a cost of £23 in January to enrol. This will be a non-refundable cost. If we are able to offer expeditions at a later date in Year 10/the early weeks of Year 11 there will be a relatively small additional cost to cover camping costs, staff costs etc. I would guess this might be in the region of £20, slightly more if we did two expeditions. All that can be looked at closer to the time. In terms of equipment the school are very supportive and have helped us build up a stock of expensive equipment that students need not buy ie tents, stoves, rucksacks, maps, first aid kits. We strongly believe in cost not being a barrier to students accessing the Award and support may be available if we arrive at a stage where we can offer the full Award this year. If we cannot offer the expedition element of the Award it is worth knowing that other organisations may be licensed to do so, for example Scouts, Cadets etc. Some schools outsource their expeditions to private companies and this is an option open to you as individuals too, however this comes at significant additional expense and is not something I am comfortable recommending to people.
I am sorry that at this stage I cannot provide clarity, though in this crazy year I am sure you will understand. If I can help answer any questions please do feel free to contact me via email. I will write to you again in January 2021 and process enrolments for students who wish to progress on the basis outlined above.
Best wishes to yourselves and your families.
Mr M Pickup