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Leaders’ Conference

English: Logo of the DofE (The Duke of Edinbur...

Logo of the DofE (The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award)

I’m sat here at a conference (or was when I typed this up) with some time over lunch and realised that I’ve not done a blog post in absolutely ages. So here’s one.

I’m at the Scottish Leaders’ Conference for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award as I’m one of my school’s “leaders” for the scheme. So, what is the Award? Some of you may have heard of it, but likelihood is that anyone outside of the U.K., or at least the Commonwealth won’t have.

It kicked off in the 1930’s – this is the 60th anniversary, in fact – and is designed to help develop life skills in young people. It’s meant to be as self-led as possible and to encourage participants to improve themselves and hopefully try things a little outside of their personal comfort zone.

At each level, there are three sections (five at Gold) which have to be completed. Physical, Skill, Volunteering and an Expedition with a Residential section added for the highest level. The awards must be completed by people aged from 13 to 25 so it is aimed very much at younger learners.

The job of staff is very much one of support, information provision, guidance and – in the latter stages – pushing and shoving to get the thing finished off! The conference I’m at is comprised of workshops where we can swap ideas to make this job easier and more effective.

Why do I do it? That’s a question asked today to pretty much everyone. Funnily enough I never completed my award at school. I started the Bronze, turned up for some after school sessions and then kind of drifted away. Looking back, that was me at the time and it’s not cost me anything in terms of lost glory but I still regret it and if I could do the award now the I would. I just don’t want any of my own pupils missing out on the chance so that, I guess, is one reason.

Another is the chance to see my pupils in another light, especially on the expedition. Away from the classroom, away from computers (another reason is the get my lazy arse into the outdoors) and into a setting where far too few of them find themselves these days. The expedition involves teamwork as well as legwork, and it’s mildly sadistically pleasurable watching them complain at having to walk for more than five minutes!

Also, I genuinely want my pupils to do well and this is a chance to help with that outside of the remit of my own subject. I get to deal with more pupils in more circumstances, expanding my own skill base as well as my relationship with them… Which in turn helps when I am teaching them academically. It’s a win/win. Usually!

If I’m honest, I also get some extra hours out of it as well. Being a part time teacher, this means I get paid a little extra but hand on heart I would do it regardless. Just don’t tell my boss. Thing is, if I go full time then I will end up doing it for no extra pay – that’s the deal with a full time contract.

This year is shaping up nicely. I’m assistant coordinator for the school (not sure if that’s formal, but it is true in effect), I’m in charge of around 50 pupils across all grades, assessing some for a section topic I suggested and get to go on day walks and expeditions where I can take my son and the dogs. If they behave!

Oh, and I get to attend nice conferences with rather delicious lunches where I can bump into fellow students from when I was at university. That was a pleasant surprise this morning.

If you’ve not heard of it, then check the award out. Most of you will be too old to do it,  but if you’ve got kids of your own then it’s worth asking to see if their school offers it. And if not, the are plenty of centres that can help.

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