At present, Shiplake College offers pupils in Years 10-13 the chance to complete the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) at Bronze, Silver and Gold level. The voluntary scheme has a hugely positive impact on pupils’ personal development. It is a real adventure from beginning to end, as each of the required sections instil and refine personal qualities which may not come to the fore during everyday life.
Volunteering is all about making a difference to the lives of others, by helping individuals or the wider community. Pupils often opt to assist with fundraising for local charities; a rewarding way to meet the assessment criteria. The physical section is intended to improve participants’ core fitness through prolonged involvement in a sport or physical activity. With such a variety of sporting options available at the College, pupils never struggle to complete this section.
The skills component is all about developing practical and social skills which are relevant to your personal interests. Choosing to focus on a particular skill not only develops that specific talent but simultaneously enhances self-esteem, confidence and resilience as well as giving participants a real sense of achievement. Permissible activities can be in virtually any domain, including creative arts, science, technology, music and cookery.
The final element of the Bronze and Silver awards is the expedition. Whilst this is undoubtedly the toughest challenge in the award, it is also the most rewarding and memorable. Recent Shiplake DofE groups have undertaken mountaineering in Scotland, and trekking and kayaking in the Brecon Beacons. The expedition pushes teamwork, communication and organisation skills to the limit as groups plan, train and prepare for the 2-4 day challenge. The whole experience brings almost every emotion with it, but vastly improves vital skills such as leadership, teamwork and communication.
Gold award seekers also undertake an expedition but are additionally required to complete a residential assignment. This challenge aims to introduce young people to an enterprise with a specific purpose, in the company of people previously unknown to them.
As well as providing a great and memorable experience whilst at school, completing the Duke of Edinburgh’s award has numerous other benefits. The skills and experiences gained through the programme are valued highly by universities and employers.