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York’s young people benefitting from Duke of Edinburgh scheme

Published Friday, 21 May 2021

Despite the challenges of Covid, lockdowns and national restrictions, the Duke of Edinburgh Award is flourishing.

Currently in York there are 661 young people doing Bronze, 323 Silver and 220 Gold participants. Last year 108 young people from across York successfully completing their Award, including over 3000 hours of volunteering in our local communities.

The Duke of Edinburgh's Award offers young people an opportunity to get involved in charity and sporting activities, refining their skills and supporting their local communities. The Award is regarded highly and many young people in York choose to enrol at school. This month over 100 young people are starting their Bronze Award at Fulford School.

Over the last year the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) has adapted to the new challenges, and young people are still giving up their time to develop themselves and support their community whilst demonstrating their determination and resilience.

Councillor Keith Orrell, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Education said: 

The last year has been an enormous challenge for all of us, and to see these young people still continue to work so hard and achieve so much is inspiring.

"This award is a testament to the incredible legacy to the Duke of Edinburgh which has given joy and support to so many young people.

“The awards offer fun, adventure and big challenges to anyone aged 14 to 24, and enhance the offering of activities from our schools and communities. We are proud to be part of this scheme, widely recognised as one of the world’s leading youth achievement schemes, and I applaud all those who’ve pushed their personal boundaries to earn their award.”

“In 2020 all our lives profoundly changed. Schools closed, activities stopped and young people felt isolated. For some, taking part in DofE has been an essential support when their lives have felt like they were crumbling. Over the last year we have been reminded of the value of connecting, communication and community. These incredible young people have chosen to spend their time in our community making a better world.”

When most people associate DofE with expeditions, this is just a small part of the DofE challenge. During the expeditions young people have to independently navigate a route through the countryside then camp and cook for themselves – whatever the weather. To complete their aware they must also have done months of voluntary work, physical activities and built up their skills in a chosen hobby. This combination helps make young people rounded, engaged and dedicated young citizens.

Whilst many of them faced problems where their chosen activities were cut short by covid restrictions, this didn’t stop them rising to the challenge.

Toby Eastaugh, Principal of Vale of York Academy, said:

"The Duke of Edinburgh Award runs in Year 10 and 11 at the Vale of York Academy and is held in high regard among students, staff and parents.

The award allows students to develop resilience, confidence, leadership and above all support their physical and mental well-being.

"Even though the pandemic has halted many things this year, we continue to work without young people on the award and have lots of plans to get students back out of the classroom next summer. As a Principal, it is very pleasing to see our students engaging in the award, a provision which supports our motto 'Always giving the best''.

Examples of local activities

  • Alexus had been volunteering at his local library. Once lockdown started he became a really valuable friend and support to his Granddad. He not only tended his garden and helped with cleaning and care, he also taught his Granddad to use new technology so that he could keep in contact with the world at large.
  • Cyd switched her volunteering to helping an anxious family friend to relax by giving them on-line art tutorials.
  • Henry was a young leader at his local Scout Group for a year, helping with camps plus activities and badges.
  • Neve was tap dancing for her physical section. When she could no longer attend classes she continued to practice at home and still danced in a planned show – adapted to be online.
  • Luke, a keen club squash player could no longer play regularly, so switched to PE with Joe Wickes for his Physical activity.
  • Numerous young participants took over cooking family meals or doing challenging baking during lockdown for their skills. Many have spent time learning to play a new instrument, or honing their skills on one that they already played. When participants could no longer attend their usual clubs, they enrolled on online courses ranging from money management to robotics to develop a new skill.
  • Participant Jansen completed his Silver Expedition on the North Yorkshire Moors, developing teamwork and resilience.
  • Before the Covid restrictions Nicole was able to do her Gold Volunteering at Respite Centre. She assisted in a variety of tasks which included helping with mealtime assistance, accompany them on outings to places of interest, serving meals, supporting with daytime and evening activities.

Impacts for young people

One recent Duke of Edinburgh's NFER survey respondent said:

Before I did DofE, I felt anxious a lot of the time. I believe in myself more now.

The Young People’s mental health and wellbeing report produced by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) and DofE highlights the long-lasting impact these programs have on young people’s wellbeing and mental health, as well as building valuable skills for their future and prospects of employment.

Doing their DofE has been a huge support to many young people. Nearly two-thirds of participants surveyed say they are more appreciative of extracurricular activities as a result of the pandemic, and more than half are worried their levels of stress, anxiety, or mental health issues could increase if they can’t take part.

  • 62% of participants say doing their DofE made them more confident in overcoming difficult situations
  • 61% feel they have become more independent
  • 67% say it helped them feel more responsible
  • 70% said it made them feel proud of what they can achieve.

Taking part

Information about the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award can be found on their website.

If you would like to join a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award group, ask at school for an enrolment form or for the Open Award Unit email For information on getting involved locally, please contact Sarah Nicholson, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Coordinator at City of York Council by email at