IT might look a bit different to usual, but the Duke of Edinburgh’s award is still running in all local secondary schools this autumn – and enrolling new Year 9 and Year 10 pupils.

And despite coronavirus restrictions, participants are still full of enthusiasm and working hard, says Dave Sommerville, co-ordinator of the scheme in Pembrokeshire.

“We have adapted the scheme to ensure it is delivered safely and in line with Government guidelines,” he said.

“But what we’ve found is that our young people are so enthusiastic about taking part in extra-curricular activities – which are limited at the moment – that the numbers are as high as ever.”

The Duke of Edinburgh’s award requires participants to complete four sections – skills, volunteering, physical and expedition – in their spare time. There are three levels; Bronze, Silver and Gold.

September saw more than 120 young people from Pembrokeshire secondary schools take part in Bronze practice expeditions along the county’s coastline.

Remaining in their school ‘bubbles’, they hiked some 20-25 km over two days, set up camp and cooked a meal outdoors.

Dave said they really enjoyed it.

“The only thing they couldn’t do was actually sleep in the tents overnight but they probably got about 90-95% of the experience,” he said.

“The parents were also really pleased that their children had an opportunity to take part. In most cases, it’s the first extra-curricular activity their child has had for six months.”

The other sections of the scheme – volunteering, physical and skills – have also been adapted in light of coronavirus restrictions.

Pictured at Talbenny is one of the Bronze expedition groups from Haverfordwest High VC School.

One of the temporary changes is that participants can now volunteer for family members.

Among those who did just that during lockdown were Joni from Ysgol Bro Gwaun and Daniel from Ysgol y Preseli, both Silver DofE participants.

Joni supported her elderly grandparents with shopping, cleaning, making their meals and more, while Daniel from home-tutored his younger brother, which was of great help to their parents who are essential workers.

Dave Sommerville said there are lots of good ideas on the DofE website on how other participants can also adapt their programmes.

“For example, instead of going to a class for the skills section you could follow an online course, and if you can’t attend local sports clubs for the physical section, you could download Strava and go out on your bike,” he said.

For a wide variety of ideas, view https://www.dofe.org/DofEwithadifference

Cllr David Simpson, Council Leader and Ambassador for the scheme in Wales, said he was very pleased that the award programme is continuing to provide so many opportunities for young people in the County.

“The Duke of Edinburgh’s scheme is a great chance to have fun, broaden horizons, discover new interests, gain new skills and achieve a prestigious award,” said Cllr Simpson, who holds the Gold award.

“I’m really encouraged that it is continuing to run safely in Pembrokeshire and I would heartily recommend to any young person in Year 9 or 10 to enrol in the scheme – you won’t regret it.”

·           If you/ your child is in Year 9 or Year 10 in a Pembrokeshire school, the Bronze award can be started now! Send an email to david.sommerville@pembrokeshire.gov.uk to ask for an enrolment form and further details.

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