On Friday 20th July, The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) Managers representing Operating Authorities (OAs) from a cluster of the DofE’s South East Region came together for a Managers meeting with a difference. The venue for the meeting was aboard Lady H, a narrowboat belonging to Hampshire County Council based in Newbury and coinciding with a narrowboat festival!
The purpose behind using Lady H was to bring the relatively new cluster together as a team with the Operations Officer, Geoff Hurst and the South East Region’s new Client Support Officer, Kate Saunders. Ably skippered by Hampshire’s Gill Spratt, the boat allowed the Managers to share issues and ideas informally between negotiating locks and turning points, poor helming from Geoff and learning the ropes for those aboard for the first time. It also highlighted Lady H’s availability for DofE Residential opportunities and additional needs expeditions (details below).
Having survived a spell on the boat the team disembarked for a round table meeting, focusing on the issues or best practice in each OA, particularly at a time where budgets are under threat, positions are uncertain and demand is on the increase. eDofE feedback came thick and fast but despite some issues is now seen as business as usual for all OAs represented, a really positive step and testament to the hard work of the Managers and their teams.
A key theme was the increasing direction for councils to tend towards using DofE for targeted work, recognising its impact on young people with additional needs or from disadvantaged backgrounds. Examples of such include Surrey, where DofE is seen as the accreditation of choice for the county’s Youth Support Service and Hampshire, where they are doing pioneering work using DofE in line with troubled families agenda.
The South East Region will look to work with Managers to determine where growth in that area can be supported, in line with the DofE’s strategic aim of increasing the number of young people with additional needs accessing DofE. Free participation places for disadvantaged young people and bursaries, such as from the Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust, are currently being managed by the South East Region as a start to this.
Along with this the Region will, with Managers, examine where there is opportunity for non-targeted growth in view of approaching organisations as prospective Directly Licensed Centres (DLCs), where the OAs are unable to support them. It is hoped that this will help fulfil the massive demand for The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award from young people and the increasing demand from employers for employees with more than just academic qualifications.
The day was well received by all and the DofE’s South East Region would like to thank the Managers for attending (coming from as far as Jersey!) and for their valuable feedback. The Region is particularly grateful to Hampshire for use of Lady H, details of which can be found by contacting George Tranham, firstname.lastname@example.org
or phoning 01962 876305. Several colleagues were interested in exploring the potential of its use for their own OA for either the Gold Residential section, teambuilding or with certain approval, for additional needs expeditions.
Paul Bowen, DofE Manager for Surrey, said of the meeting:
"The recent South East Region DofE Managers meeting format on a narrowboat was excellent. It's something we've also done in Surrey - I think people appreciate the variation and I think it tends to free the mind as well! I know we've also had the 'talking walk/walking talk' format before, and John Courtauld of 'Phones4U' used to host meetings whilst cycling... What about the next one underground in the chamber of a mine?!
“I think we have to be a little circumspect in how we improve outcomes for young people through the DofE, and be mindful of the agenda in our respective authorities. As part of the still relatively new Youth Support Service in Surrey, our target audience should be young people with additional needs, especially the RONIs (those meeting some aspect on the Risk Of NEET Indicators list) and young people in care. The trick, though, is to do that and maintain a level of service for everyone else."