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Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, years 10 to 13

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award is a national scheme that encourages young people up to the age of 25 to get involved in a balanced range of activities and to experience the countryside under canvas. It contains three levels; Bronze, Silver and Gold. Students at each level have to carry out three independent activities for increasing durations. These are Volunteering, which could be working in a Charity shop, fund raising or coaching younger children; Action, which may involve school lacrosse Squad, swimming outside school, running or gymnastics, and a skill, which is often playing a musical instrument, but also includes drama, first aid, cooking or in the case of year 12, learning to drive.

However, the term ‘Duke of Edinburgh’ has become synonymous with groups of young people trekking through the countryside with heavy and often brightly coloured backpacks and it is their expeditions which the girls most look forward to, especially when it is over and they are reminiscing! Our pupils are familiar with cities and pavements and many are pushed well beyond their comfort zone when faced with a muddy track, a field of cows and a barren campsite without mobile phone reception. They learn to work as a team under pressure and it is certainly character building! At each level the girls carry out a practice expedition, when a member of the NLCS staff can work with them to ensure that they can read a map, pitch a tent and cook on a gas stove. On the qualifying expedition the girls are monitored remotely by NLCS staff, giving them a real sense of independence.

Bronze Award

The Bronze Duke of Edinburgh’s award is open to all Year 10 pupils and most of the year group participate. Both the practice and qualifying expeditions are over two days and one night and take place in the lovely Chiltern Hills and Ashridge Forest. At the end of the summer term the groups present their expedition aims and adventures to Year 9 during a form assembly, and about three quarters of the year group gain their badge and certificate which are awarded in an Upper School assembly the following Autumn.

Silver Award

The Silver Duke of Edinburgh’s Award is open to all Year 11 girls who have completed their Bronze Award although a few girls do enrol on the Silver Award in Year 12. At this level the girls learn to use a compass more effectively and are required to be more independent. One Sunday in March is used for training in using the compass and estimating distance from a map. The girls currently have a choice of two out of three expeditions which take place at Easter, at the end of the GCSE exams and in August. Locations include the Peak District, the South Downs and Bedfordshire’s Green Sand Ridge. Each of the expeditions lasts for three days and two nights during which each group has to investigate a topic of their own choice, such as wildlife, geology or tourism . The girls give presentations on their findings to family and friends at a special Awards evening in September during which their silver Award is presented by the London D.of E. representative. Nearly all of girls who start this level of the award carry it through to completion.

Gold Award

Each year around a dozen students in Year 13 complete the arduous and prestigious Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s award. The award is not for the faint hearted; it takes at least a year to complete and demands a great deal of determination and self motivation. Students commit themselves to two of their activities for a 12 month period and the third for 6 months. As well as regular after school meetings, students participate in a two day training weekend in January to prepare themselves for the expeditions.

The Gold Award expeditions take place over four days and three nights in wild country. Destinations, which include the Black Mountains, the Yorkshire Dales, the Peak District and the Lake District, are high, lonely places of moorland and fens where there may be no sign of civilisation for the entire day –that being a field with a tap near a farm house! Stamina, self-sufficiency and perseverance are the order of the day!

The award is open to all Year 12’s who have completed the Silver award, and the expeditions are limited to a maximum number of 14. About half the girls who enrol complete the award before they leave school with some continuing with the Award at university.

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