When Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, died in 2021 there is no question that he left a considerable legacy. Much of this was his unfailing devotion as the husband of the late Queen Elizabeth II. But much of it was in his own name. As a young man he always showed considerable potential and was top of his class in most activities in naval college. Possibly his greatest gift to the nation was his foundation and leadership of the Awards that were made in his name. Since the Awards began in 1956, its aim has been to help young people plan in order to take their own programme of activities to develop themselves mentally, physically and emotionally. The Duke of Edinburgh's Award is widely recognised by employers and education providers as the definitive qualification for demonstrating self-reliance, commitment and dedication.
Last week my wife and I attended the Sheriff's Ball at the Guildhall. This year the non-Aldermanic Sheriff is Andrew Marsden, a fellow Past Master of the Worshipful Company of Marketors and a friend of mine for many years. I served on his election campaign committee two years ago and was delighted when he won that election. This week is the final week of the Sheriffs’ year in office and Andrew has completed over 450 events during that 12-month period. The Sheriff's Ball is effectively the climax of the year and it is a truly glittering affair and raises considerable funds for the Lord Mayor's Appeal, the latest estimate is £75,000 Until recently the Lord Mayor's Appeal would focus on a single charity nominated by the Lord Mayor of that year and while it would raise considerable funds it did so only during that 12 month period. In the past few years that policy has been amended in a very subtle and effective way.
Now the charities nominated by the Lord Mayor and the next two prospective Lord Mayors are rolled into one Appeal with one new charity being added each year while the one that was in first place drops out. The three charities for which we were raising money last week are National Numeracy which is funding an initiative called ‘Every Londoner counts’ which is helping to improve basic numeracy skills amongst thousands of Londoners in greatest need, helping to boost people's self-confidence, financial independence, and employment prospects.
The second is a partnership with MQ Mental Health Research enabling new research programmes from the mental health impact of the cost-of-living crisis to the use of virtual reality in mental health therapies.
But in my opinion while those are both very worthy charities, the most innovative selection was by Alderman Vincent Keaveny who was Lord Mayor in 2021-22. That is a partnership enabling the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award to extend its reach in London, supporting its ambition for a further 10,000 young people to get the chance to undertake and achieve an Award. Their focus on growing provision in areas of deprivation, is ensuring that cost isn't a barrier to accessing what can be a life changing opportunity for young people. A donation of £100 will enable at least four young people to start their Bronze or Silver Duke of Edinburgh’s Award programme, giving them the opportunity to develop invaluable skills for education, work and life. £250 will pay for at least eight young people to start their Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award journey, the highest level of the DofE and that requiring the most commitment. £500 will provide initial training for at least 5 Duke of Edinburgh’s Award leaders, helping to support young people doing the DofE in their organisation.
Some of the benefits to young people of the DofE Awards programme include:
Developing self-confidence and self-reliance
Gaining a sense of achievement and a sense of responsibility
Discovering new skills, interests and talents
Developing leadership skills and abilities
This is achieved through participants undertaking a range of activities for the four different Award sections (five for Gold) .
As the job market continues to get more competitive and more people gain degrees and other higher education qualifications, employers are looking for other means of determining the strength and quality of candidates. Each year the DofE is regularly stated by graduate employers as being a definitive qualification for demonstrating that an individual has the rounded set of skills and the qualities for which they are looking. The percentage among these job applicants who have completed a DofE Award is quite low, which ensures it continues to be a very prestigious achievement and means that those who complete it will stand out from the crowd.
The main reason why the DoE maintains such a fantastic reputation is because it requires motivation, commitment and maturity from the participants. They have to take total responsibility for all aspects of their daily experience. There are people who are available to offer support and advice but the participant must do the work.
They must undertake the following tasks:
Finding activities to undertake for the different DofE sections.
Ensure they attend the activities.
Submit the required independent evidence to demonstrate they have undertaken the necessary activities
The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award consists of four sections, five for Gold:
Skill Section - Participants must spend approximately 1 hour per week learning a new life skill (outside of school lessons). There are hundreds of different activities that young people can choose from. Popular choices include music, art, drama, cooking, committee skills, learning to drive & language. Sports cannot count for this section because they come under the physical recreation section.
Volunteering Section - This section requires participants to spend approximately 1 hour per week in voluntary work. This gives participants the opportunity to get out into their communities and give something back. (Ruled out is working for free for a commercial organisation like hairdressers, shop, cafe etc.)
Physical Recreation Section - This requires participants to spend one hour per week of their own time engaging in physical recreation. It can be any form of activity and does not need to be in a team or competitive environment.
Expedition Section-The participants will be part of a small team and will have an experience including overnight stays getting to grips with the great outdoors. They will improve their communication and leadership skills as well as taking good memories home.
Residential Section which appears only in the gold award programme. Participants spend time away from home on a shared activity with people they've never met before. This could involve helping at a children's camp or learning to snowboard in Scotland or many other possibilities.
Participants must be aged from 14 to 23 and can take part in three levels of programme leading to a Bronze, Silver or Gold Award. Most people tend to start to try for the Bronze Award which can be begun at year 9 and over in school and involves about 12 months of activities. The Silver Award can be started at year 10 and involves about 24 months of activity but if the participant hasn't done Bronze first they must do a further six months in either volunteering or the six month version of the physical or skills sections. The Gold Award can be started at age 16 and over and involves more like three years of activity and if the participant didn't do Silver first they must have a further six months in one of the activities.
Following the death of Prince Philip his son Prince Edward took over as Patron. But he was well-prepared for the role. He has been a trustee of the DofE since 1988 and of the International Award since 2006. Edward later went on to become Chair of Trustees of the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award in 2015 and was named patron of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award in 2023. He has promoted the charity's work on different occasions.
In my boyhood I was a Wolf Cub. When I went to my grammar school I expected to join one of the four scout troops that they operated but for some reason I didn't get round to this. A few years later I joined a local scouts troop near where I lived as a Senior Scout and very quickly caught up on the badges that I had missed and got not to the highest level of a Queen’s Scout Award but certainly to first class .At that time that was the equivalent of part of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award but again for reasons that I have forgotten I didn't carry on and complete this. There are few things in my life that I regret but that is one. I think that I eventually did develop the relevant personal qualities but I could have done so much earlier.