My DofE Journey

by David Aspinall

My involvement with the Duke of Edinburgh award began in the early 80’s when as part of the civilian instructor team at 2434 Squadron ATC at Church Fenton and we were looking at bringing in other activities for the cadets to take part in. It really took off in 2008 as a result of Nicola Glaswell an IT teacher, seeking to re-establish the award and looking for volunteers to help deliver the Bronze award. In those early years we could possibly attract 20 – 30 Year 10 students, who were trained after school. Expeditions were managed by Nicky and myself with help from a number of other school staff and students had to supply their own kit and be taken to and from expedition start and finished point by parents. With the popularity of the Bronze award growing in 2010/11 we added the Silver level, which was open to Year 11 students and Gold was introduced although this was under the remit of Mid York’s Expeditions an approved activity provider, again all training was carried out after school with the same arrangements for expeditions. When Nicky decided to leave for pastures new, emigrating to Australia! and with participant levels increasing across the award, it was time for a radicle rethink of how the award was delivered. It had become increasing difficult to recruit volunteers from staff for the expeditions; Parents were becoming increasingly concerned around the pressures on year 11 students, talk of the impact of cuts to council budgets and the DofE changing the rules for entry onto the Bronze award.
Initially, in 2013 it was decided to offer the Bronze award to year 9’s but to also include that year 10 groups as well. Existing Year 11’s would continue as normal. The year after this the year 10’s would complete silver, skip a year and pick up the gold award in year 12. With numbers at Bronze reaching 80 plus after school training was not a viable option and we moved to completing all the training requirements and route planning to 2 inset days. With fewer numbers Silver and Gold training could still be completed with 3 or 4 after school sessions. To ensure that expeditions were fully manned with trained leaders we also increased the involvement of Mid York’s expeditions who also provided expedition kit and transport to and from expedition sites. The rumblings around the ability of NYCC to provide educational support and manage the award was becoming increasing unclear and the next major move was in 2016 when we became a directly licenced centre (DLC) offering the award in its entirety. It was about this time that we as a DLC merged Sherburn High School into the award as part of the Star Alliance. This move has proved to be particularly fruitful in increasing numbers of participants across all levels but also ensuring our ability to continue to offer and administer the award as earlier this year NYCC announced that it would not be renewing its DofE licence and that schools would have to in future make their own arrangements.
And so to the present, earlier this year I announced my intention to step down from the award and since the middle of the year I have been slowly putting into place measures to ensure the smooth transition of the running of the award to others. From September Dave Sanderson has been appointed as my successor Students may be familiar with him as he has been a regular face teaching science at school. Dave is committed to the award and has experience of delivering it at Huntington school. To date we are in the process of drafting registration letters which has taken us a little longer than we would have liked due to having to be mindful of the recently introduced GDPR rules. These cover how a person’s personal data is handled. I have agreed to stay as long as required to complete a successful hand over and remain confident that apart from changes in contact information students and parents will not see any changes in how the DofE is operated.
I have had a fantastic time delivering the award, from being part of a young person’s journey, watching them grow in confidence, learning the skills that will set them up for life. Some hilarious moments, the student who walked through a bog and became stuck and when we pulled him out left both boots in the mud. It does say bog on the map sir was his only comment. Expedition presentations by the score and countless emails with the
topic “What’s my username sir, I’ve forgotten mine” A trip to St James Palace to witness students receive their Gold certificates and the immense pride on parents’ faces but it’s time to pass the baton on for me to spend a little more time down at the allotment or fly fishing or tramping across the wonderful countryside of ours without wondering where the little blighters are!
Enjoy the journey,