Withington Alumnae Attend Gold DofE Award Celebration

Eight Withington alumnae from the Class of 2022, who completed their Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold Award in 2021, attended a Gold Award celebration at Buckingham Palace in the week of 15th May 2023. During the week, His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh welcomed 9,000 Gold DofE Award holders to Buckingham Palace Garden across two days – his first celebrations as the charity’s Patron.

The Duke of Edinburgh – who received his own Gold Award from his father Prince Philip at St James’s Palace in 1986 – congratulated attendees in a speech from the Palace’s West Terrace. The Duke also met Award holders, hearing about the positive impact their DofE experience has had on them.

Withington alumnae at Buckingham Palace for the Gold DofE Award celebration May 2023

Withington has a long history of participating in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. Set up initially for boys aged 15-18, the scheme was extended to girls some two years after its first announcement in 1956. The first time that the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award was mentioned in our catalogue of Newsletters was in the 1967 publication, marking nearly six decades of involvement by Withington pupils in the scheme.

The first full documentation of the events of the scheme in a Newsletter was 20 years later in 1987, and in the following year the writer reports that membership of the programme at Withington is expanding: “This year, more people than ever are becoming involved in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme (little do they know what they are in for!!)”

Today, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award is incredibly popular at Withington. In the 2022/23 academic year, 70 out of a year group of 84 Year 9 pupils have embarked on the first level of qualification: the Bronze Award. 57% of Year 10 will have successfully completed the Silver Award following their expedition in September – rearranged due to bad weather – and 32 pupils in Year 12, 42% of that cohort, have reached the milestone of the Gold Award.

Year 12 pupils on expedition in the Lake District April 2023

To achieve their Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, young people have to show that they have participated in physical activity through any sport. They also need to evidence that they have improved and developed their expertise in a chosen skill and complete an expedition which requires much preparation.

Participants also need to volunteer and give time to help members of their local community or work to help improve the environment. Our pupils have been assisting charities that support elderly people, working at foodbanks and helping to run school holiday camps for children. Over the years, many have spent time in charity shops, on hospital wards, in health centres and places of worship, and on site here at school helping in the Library, supporting Junior School projects and partnerships initiatives.

In the last three years alone (2019-2022), Withington pupils have spent over 7,200 hours volunteering in the community as part of their DofE Awards. The social value of these hours is £32,490.

Year 9 pupils on expedition in the Lancashire countryside March 2023

Completing any level of the Award requires dedication and determination with the Gold Award requiring the greatest level of commitment of at least 12 months. Year 12 pupils were asked why they wanted to complete the final level of Award, one said “I wanted to push myself and build my resilience and perseverance”, whilst another commented “I wanted to achieve something successful that I would be proud of, and I knew from past students that Gold DofE was extremely difficult. The expedition is only a section of the Award, and I wanted to continue volunteering and supporting my community and be more active in my day-to-day life.”

On her experience of the Gold Award, Lily in Year 12 said: “I originally hadn’t planned to do the Gold Award but decided to, as I wanted to prove to myself that I can do it, and to prepare myself for the future when I have to do things as hard, if not harder.

The expeditions were very difficult, but I am glad that I did them, as they have taught me both useful skills and things about myself (it sounds cliché, but it’s true). My activities have also been very enjoyable, as I have learnt new skills and made new friends. I am also very much looking forward to my residential – a creative writing course in the summer. For anyone unsure on whether they want to do it, I would absolutely give it a go. Speaking from experience, you will probably enjoy it more than you think, and it will always be something that you’ll be proud that you did.”

Year 12 pupils on expedition in the Lake District April 2023

Dr Sue Madden, Assistant Head and Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Coordinator for Gold and Silver level said: “It was wonderful to see a group of our most recent school leavers attend the celebrations at Buckingham Palace, the culmination of many years of hard work, determination and great teamwork demonstrated throughout completing the trilogy of DofE Awards for which the benefits are endless.

At whatever level, participation in the scheme enables our pupils to develop skills and confidence which will stay with them in whatever career path they choose. They are able to demonstrate commitment, communication, leadership and teamwork, and evidence these in practice. The pupils make a difference to other people’s lives and to their communities through their volunteering. They become fitter and healthier, and have memories of the challenges of the expeditions that last a lifetime.”

Withington pupils spent 2,769 hours volunteering between 1 April 2022-31 March 2023