All four of our boys have or will be taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh Award. The first never quite completed his Bronze, he’s over 25 now so it’s too late. Second skipped his Silver and just did Bronze and an extended Gold. Third is currently doing his Silver. Finally the fourth is just starting his Bronze. Therefore, it made sense for me to write a post about our experiences of the Duke of Edinburgh Award and what we have learned.
About the Duke of Edinburgh Award
As mentioned above the Duke of Edinburgh Award comes in three levels – Bronze, Silver and Gold. You can start your Bronze Award any time between the ages of 14-24. Right up until the 25th birthday to complete it.
- About the Duke of Edinburgh Award
- Why Do a Duke of Edinburgh Award
- The Experience with Duke of Edinburgh Award with Our Children so Far
The Duke of Edinburgh Award Sections
Each Duke of Edinburgh Award has four sections: Volunteering, Physical, Skills and Expedition. How long each one takes will depend on the level of Award that the individual is taking. Obviously Bronze starts with the lowest level of commitment and then it builds up. Gold also has a residential. This involves going away with people you don’t know.
Every one of the activities should take around an hour a week over a set course of time. But not only are the Duke of Edinburgh Awards easy to fit around studies and social life, but also it will help develop their interests. This is also because each programme is unique and personalised to the individual. Well with the exception of the expedition as these are done in groups.
Why Do a Duke of Edinburgh Award
It is just a great way for young people to develop. You can convince them that it’s great for CVs and UCAS applications – but the reason that it is because of this. They get to try new things, become more confident, fitter, improve social and survival skills; plus they play an active role in helping their community.
The Experience with Duke of Edinburgh Award with Our Children so Far
The First Son
Our eldest son has Asperger’s Syndrome and did his DofE Bronze with the school. Communication was poor and we didn’t really know much about it back then. He completed it all apart from the volunteering.
By the time we discovered that he had until he was 25 years old to complete it he had left school. Things have changed now as it’s online/on an app but back then we had no way of knowing how to access the fact that he had completed the rest.
Despite all this it really helped him in other areas. Plus it helped him to get his first job as a lifeguard.
The Second Son
Honestly he just got on with it himself. Well maybe with a bit of nagging from his Captain. This time it was not with the school and personally I think that was much easier. He has technically completed his Gold but just needs to submit the last of his Physical evidence.
DofE made such a difference to this son in my opinion. He started volunteering at the group he was doing it with (in another section) and then carried on. Going on to become a Young Leader. In fact after he has gone off to University he has asked me to step in a volunteer to help with the gap he has left behind!
NCS is an option for Gold but he was unable to do it as it clashed with things. Instead we found this great residential that included learning to sail. He was meant to go at Christmas and make Christmas foods (gingerbread etc) but missed it because of covid and had to rebook. Either way he had a great time and has even thought about further training so that he can volunteer on the sailing trips!
Third and Fourth Sons
The last two are doing it through the same group as their brother. This time as parents we are more knowledgeable. I am trying to get them to think more about their futures and tailoring what they do to that. Opposed to just taking the obvious routes of running, cooking and volunteering with the people they are doing it with.
For example, is there skills they want to learn? Are there volunteering opportunities that could prove they’ve had a long interest in something they may wish to do in the future?
Although the third son does love to cook and the fourth one was already learning to play the guitar!
Things to Keep In Mind
Who to Do the Duke of Edinburgh Award With
Think about who they want to do it with. Obviously you need to think about the safeguarding element here too.
Personally I have heard what’s happening with the school participants and it doesn’t seem as great. Communication isn’t as great, the volunteering isn’t as easy to obtain and well some of the experiences sound a bit lame.
We also found it was cheaper not to do it with the school. However, our youngest has been offered the costs of his through his EHCP from his school.
Also not only is it the cost of doing DofE but any equipment. Every DofE participant does get a discount code. However, on top of this some may be lent from who they are doing it with. If you have multiple children they may be able to pass things down also.
Make sure that your young person knows what they are doing. Sometimes they may need reminding. Or help with getting their Awards signed off. For example, things need evidencing so it may be that you need to remind them to take photographs. Lower awards are easier to evidence.
Find out when the expeditions run – ours have never been during the winter. They also do canoeing for their Gold, whereas another setting I know do it for their Silver. Make sure they have broken in their walking boots, have good socks and blister plasters!
When thinking about what food to take also consider other practicalities such as whether they need extra equipment to cook it, and washing it all up. Admittedly we cheat and pay for the evening meals in a bag. These are just heated up in water! Likewise the pots of porridge that you make up with water and then act as a bowl. Do consider your environmental footprint too though.
Read Sarah’s blog on Bronze DofE Expedition foods to take (and not to)
Also think about the individual and what they really need to take. Some young people will want a shower, some are unlikely to have a shower – especially on Bronze. Think about the fact that they have to carry everything. Same with clothes to sleep in – are they going to change or just fall down exhausted and sleep in what they are wearing at the end of the day?
The Duke of Edinburgh Awards are inclusive, this means adaptations can be made to make things fair. We discovered this when our teen suffered a chest trauma and thought that he would be unable to take part in his expedition.
Starting Award Level
Each Award can be started without doing the previous one but you need to add extras to it. Therefore you can do Silver without Bronze with a further 6 months undertaken in either the Volunteering or the longer of the Physical or Skills sections. Gold without Silver a further 6 months undertaken in either the Volunteering or the longer of the Physical or Skills sections.
The volunteering section is one of the most important. The length increases with every DofE Award. It is good to think of something/somewhere you can easily stick at as more and more participants are wanting these spaces. Our third son started volunteering for his Bronze but stopped after his three months. This is making it trickier for him to volunteer again.
Likewise obvious places such as Parkrun have filled up lately with lots of willing volunteers.
I am sure there’s loads more I could say – or find out from my boys. The website itself is really good with plenty of inspiration and further details. Really though I would really recommend it.