Duke of Edinburgh’s Award from a Different View
20th April 2016

Students and Staff embracing The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (D of E) at Ratcliffe College have had a lot to celebrate.   Mrs Catherine Cole, D of E Co-ordinator at Ratcliffe, was personally thanked by The Duke of Edinburgh at St James’ Palace for her fifteen years of service to the Scheme.  Catherine was nominated by Leicestershire County Council and has been at Ratcliffe College since 2007.    

Catherine has helped young people to achieve their award by providing training for expeditions, advising on the different sections of the award and helping the students to use the D of E on-line national database.   “Of course it is a family affair as my husband Paul helps to run our D of E centre, and my daughter, Abigail, has been on as many expeditions as most of the participants.  Back at school, there is a lot to do: we train them to read maps, plan routes, stay safe, camp, do first aid, etc.  We advise them on their other sections: Volunteering in the community, learning a new Skill (or hobby) and some form of Physical exercise.  At Gold level, they also go away and do a shared activity for 5 days, 4 nights, with people they do not already know as their Residential section.  We also help them to use the on-line national database eDofE , where they record all of their achievements.  We organise and then accompany the participants on a total of around 25 days’ worth of camping and walking each year.”

Here are some of the more memorable things that have happened, in her time:

Being called out to a group on Dartmoor, late in the evening who were scared by the single cow that was by their tent (although at that time we only knew there was a problem, not what it was)– an hour drive to get there, then a walk out in the pitch black to their wild campsite on the moor (they were asleep by the time we got there and no sign of the cow) then a walk back to the minibus and another hour drive back to our camp.

Endless very wet expeditions – sometimes (especially in the Brecon Beacons) it was so wet that we were wringing the water out of waterproof gloves!

Climbing the same hill three times looking for a group, who turned out to have gone round the back of the hill from where we were which is how they missed us.

Assessing a special needs group in the Yorkshire Dales; they were all such an inspiration and faced such challenges, but rose to them successfully.

Walking over Brown Knoll in the Peak District several years in a row and never seeing a view, usually not seeing more than around 50 to 100 metres.

Paddling instead of walking through Cossington one year on the Bronze training day; not everybody managed to get through without sitting down in it!

Spending four hours waiting at a cold wet checkpoint during one expedition for a group who never arrived – the assessor had rerouted them but I hadn’t been told that.  I then had to paddle to get back to my car – got a bit wet!

“The Duke asked me about the school and seemed impressed at how popular the scheme was at Ratcliffe,” said Catherine. 


Every year, over 100 students start the Bronze Award or move up to the next level: Silver or Gold.  This is a significant number, considering that Ratcliffe College has 827 pupils (aged 3-18) in the whole school.


  Two former pupils, Anastasia Benfield-Dexter and Joseph Dickinson, were also at St James’ Palace being presented with their Gold Awards.  Catherine explained:

“Joseph Dickinson was a very strong candidate when it came to D of E, especially the expedition section.  Their group decided to study their morale across their four days walking and camping on Dartmoor and they should have had plenty of material to work with.  Normally, an expedition of this level is a real challenge, not just physically but also mentally and emotionally.  Many participants struggle to stay positive when spending every hour with the same group of people over such a length of time, but for the entire expedition Joe’s group were fine.  They didn’t suffer the second or third day blues and they all got on brilliantly for the whole of the four days.  He just seemed to breeze through it.

In contrast,  Anastasia Benfield-Dexter should have been a very strong candidate but was unlucky and suffered a very bad fall while out walking with her family early on in the year.  She was in hospital for several weeks and was advised that she would be able to do no exercise at all for the rest of the year at least. We thought it was the end of her Gold D of E experience for now.  However, she made such amazing progress that by January her consultant agreed that she could return to classroom training with us and actually go out on the two expeditions later in the year.  It was not easy for her, as she was still not fully recovered, but she showed us just what she was made of and she completed her expeditions through sheer grit and determination.”

 Further information:

Here is the link to the gold hall of fame – they are in the picture gallery photo.  Ana is in a black jacket with black and white dress and Joe is on back row, almost off the edge on the left