The Duke Of Edinburgh's Award attracts many eager youths annually, with its promise of a challenging, but rewarding experience, and this year, I was one of those enticed. Last weekend I took part in my bronze practice expedition weekend; despite having completed numerous expeditions and hikes up mountains, the DofE was a completely new type of challenge that I was excited to attack. Enriching, exhausting and muddy are some of the words I would choose to describe my trip, but it was a roller coaster of emotions throughout - an entertaining couple of days spent with an entertaining group of people!


Where it began

The Duke Of Edinburgh's Award was founded in the UK by Prince Phillip at the instigation of his former headmaster Kurt Hahn. The Prince considered the idea of a national programme to support young people's development, and it has since helped to transform the lives of millions of young people in the UK and across the globe since its launch in 1956. Described by the Duke Of Edinburgh himself, “It's …a 'do-it-yourself' growing up kit”. Following Prince Phillip's Death, Edward was bestowed the title of The Duke Of Edinburgh and has pledged to continue Phillips' passion for the scheme.

The programme consists of three progress levels: Bronze, Silver and Gold, each involving sections regarding volunteering, developing skills, partaking in physical activity, and completing expeditions- at Gold level there is an additional section of working on a residential project.


Why do The Duke Of Edinburgh awards?

There is an extensive list of key skills, and attitudes which has been developed by the DofE program; they are extremely useful for participants to carry on to their later lives and can be beneficial in attracting colleges, universities and employers. The positive impacts of the award at all levels don’t solely include physical skills such as orienteering and cooking, they also help people develop on a more personal level.

Heavily prevalent in today's society, is an ‘obsession’ with social media, which has contributed to the intensifying of peer pressure; combined with long-lasting social insecurities from the Covid-19 pandemic, many people have suffered damage to their mental and physical health. Spending time in the environment, an escape from all technology, can provide a great opportunity to release stress and help ease those inner mental struggles that may be affecting people’s well-being.

Additionally, through Dofe, communication skills are enhanced, through overcoming problems within groups, supporting each other through difficulties and quite frankly having a laugh with team-mates.

Although the expedition is often considered as “the main-event”, that DofE participants, particularly at Bronze and Silver levels, remember they have learned from, the months of preparation beforehand have a large benefit to the individuals and to society. During the volunteering stage, for example, people find that helping others/the environment has opened their eyes to the value of contributing to society and has put into perspective small inconveniences they face. In 2021-2022, the financial equivalent of £9,961 volunteering hours, was produced by UK DofE participants and highlights how efforts that otherwise may have been avoided, have had a collective beneficial impact internationally.

Even after completing their DofE, people often continue to volunteer in their local community, participate in a sport that they have taken an interest in and continue to practise and demonstrate new skills that they have learned throughout the process, as a passion for a new activity has been ignited and can last a lifetime. In September 2020, DofE commissioned The Health and Wellbeing Report and found that: DofE positively impacts the general wellbeing of its participants, in providing them with opportunities to face new challenges and enhancing CVs. The study showed that 72% of respondents agreed that DofE was a fun and enjoyable experience.

DofE increases participants' resilience and confidence in independently overcoming difficulties, and their sense of what they are able to achieve.

DofE positively impacts the communication and teamwork skills of young people. It was additionally commented that participants felt it taught them leadership skills in taking responsibility for others.

When 2021 Bronze DofE participant Lilly Richards described her weekend away she expressed "I didn't really know what to expect, and it was challenging at times, but those obstacles that we faced made me and my group stronger, and we felt so proud as a result". Along with a sense of achievement, she added that "I learned an incredible amount from completing my bronze DofE and I feel I have developed so much: as a person, as well as in terms of physical survival skills. The amount you gain from DofE is immense, and I would recommend it to everyone!".

Last year, 321,622 young people began their DofE journey and considering the proven benefits of taking up the programme, it can only be expected that this number will continue to rise. Although numerous diverse individuals receive the award, I can assure you that DofE is definitely not a walk in the park; it is a rigorously challenging award, with hard work and dedication essential for completion at all levels.

To quote the DofE website: “Any young person can do their DofE – regardless of ability, gender, background or location. Achieving an Award isn’t a competition or about being first. It’s all about setting personal challenges and pushing personal boundaries”.