The days of schools being 100% focused solely on academic prowess is fast becoming an outdated concept. Today there is an expectation for the school to assist in developing the whole child, rather than just focus on cramming for exam success and as a result, parents are increasingly reviewing the extra curricular activities and pastoral care on offer when considering school choices.
The Duke of Edinburgh Award (DofE) Scheme, which celebrates its Diamond Anniversary in 2016, claims to ‘leave a footprint on the lives of young people, opening doors to new jobs, cementing life-long friendships, broadening interests and stretching horizons’ and as such, has long been embraced by King Edward’s Witley; a school that has been running the Awards for well over 25 years.
King Edward’s places a strong emphasis on its rich programme of co-curricular activities and enjoys an established reputation for its excellent pastoral care, thanks in part to its original founding principle to provide an education for children whose home circumstances make boarding education beneficial. Mr Delvin K Poulter - Deputy Head, Director of Co-curriculum at King Edward’s, who has invested 30 years in running the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, the last 25 at King Edward’s and is an ardent fan of the scheme says, “The DofE programme provides our pupils with a unique opportunity to expand their skills beyond the classroom and represents an early step towards independence, teaching key life skills outside of the security of the family unit. Working through the awards – Bronze, Silver and Gold – will arm our children with different talents and sports, as well as introduce them to the benefits of volunteer work and the advantages of active participation in the local community. The fact that so much of the DofE programme is funded by large companies is indicative of the value these businesses’ place on the scheme and we know that a DofE Award can often be the deciding factor that sets one candidate apart from another when competition space for university places is rife.”
As a direct License Centre for the Duke of Edinburgh Awards programme (which is independent to the Education Authority allowing the School greater control in the day to day running of the scheme) King Edward’s stands out from other schools offering access to the awards.
Mr Poulter continues, “Our belief in the outstanding benefits of taking a pupil through the DofE Awards has led to the School lending significant support to the programme. We have a number of very experienced staff running the scheme; five help out at an operational level and with the associated admin and we have further full-time staff involved as assessors. In terms of hard evidence to demonstrate how the awards can help a child, there are endless examples to cite. For instance, a pupil with known behavioral problems can thrive within the DofE culture and become inspired by their involvement in such a worthwhile scheme, in particular, exposing such children to the challenges of an expedition can truly represent a turning point. We have also seen how the awards help hone the right type of leadership skills. So a child who might be a leader by acting the class clown, is suddenly transformed into a leader as a result of his / her sensible approach to a demanding situation. Equally, the physical training associated with the DofE programme ensures that we are actively discouraging the couch potato mentality that is becoming so prevalent amongst young people today. And of course it is satisfying to be able to offer practical support to a number of causes, to further cement our status as a key player in the local community.”
The School offers entry to the Bronze, Silver and Gold awards and although it is possible to bypass the Bronze and Silver and simply work towards the Gold, King Edward’s is actively looking to increase the number of pupils who undertake all three levels. From Year 9, pupils are encouraged to take up the DofE challenge and there is a compulsory camping weekend which forms part of the expedition requirement for the Bronze Award, resulting in as many as 85-90% of those who start the awards scheme at this stage going on to sign up for the full programme. While the boys see the experience as a great opportunity to undertake an expedition adventure, it is the girls that tend to be more motivated and continue to work their way through all the levels.
From camping in the Peak District or the French Alps; from undertaking local conservation work or helping out at the local infant school; from enjoying the thrill of taking up a brand new sport, the Duke of Edinburgh programme offers an impressive range of exciting new experiences for pupils beyond the confines of the traditional classroom. As the Diamond Anniversary looms, King Edward’s will continue to play a pivotal role in promoting the significant benefits of participating in a scheme which helps children become more rounded, confident adults consistent with the School’s mission to instigate the values of independent learning, responsibility for others and the enjoyment of challenge.