Residential section FAQs
If a young person has been to the residential centre before, can they go again for their DofE residential?

Only if they don’t know the staff that they may have met on their previous visit. This is because the social skills developed by interacting with people they don’t know are a vital part of the Residential experience.

Can a 12-day Kilimanjaro expedition count for a Residential section?

Yes, but it needs to be agreed with the Licensed Organisation/DofE Leader first. It must still meet all the usual requirements of not knowing the other people, not knowing the area and so on. The same days cannot also be used for the Expedition section.

Can volunteer stewarding at a festival be used as a residential activity?

In most cases stewarding is not a suitable activity; while it may meet some of the practical criteria, participants do not learn enough new skills or spend enough time working with a set group of people on a shared activity for it to count. Participants need to remain on the residential and cannot leave to meet friends at the festival. The real benefit to the volunteer is the free entry to the festival which does not meet the DofE’s objectives.

In some circumstances, for example festivals run for a charitable cause or those with a specific DofE opportunity, the activity could count if it can be evidenced that the group stay, volunteer and socialise together, and don’t go off to see friends at the festival after their shift. This also means that they must commit to full days of focused activities and stay in a separate camping area with the other volunteers, away from other festival goers.

DofE Leaders and LOs must always be consulted in advance to ensure that they are happy for the activity to count for the Residential

Can a conservation activity that is over two weekends count for my Residential section – what does ‘exceptional circumstances’ mean?

The Residential sectional activity must meet all our conditions in terms of people known, having an activity etc. as set out in the Handbook.
The ‘exceptional circumstances’ for splitting a residential refers to incidents where participants have to leave halfway through and so can count what they have already done. Some LOs may discuss some flexibilities with their DofE Office if a participant has care, medical, employment or cost issues/needs around the Residential section, or if it was an exceptional, once in a lifetime opportunity that will never be available again. It is worth noting that the Residential section is the same length as a Gold expedition with the acclimatisation day. Splitting a residential into two parts can seriously reduce the learning and development outcomes the section aims to provide. Generally, participants should therefore not set out to undertake split residential weeks. If an activity can be done over one week, then that is the option that should be taken.

What time can we finish on the last day of a residential?

Each day should be a full day, but people may have some distance to travel. Ideally this should be the following day if it would seriously impede the residential. Common sense is probably the best advice here, but as a rule of thumb, 4pm would be fine, but 12pm or 1pm would not usually be.

Can the Residential section be backdated by three months as an activity undertaken prior to entry?
Yes. This is set out on in The Handbook for DofE Leaders. The participant must have been 16 at the time and the residential must meet all the usual considerations. Some participants will complete a residential activity and may learn afterwards that they have completed one section of a Gold DofE programme, becoming inspired to take on the rest of their DofE.

Can you complete a DofE residential with a commercial organisation?

The Handbook for DofE Leaders states that a residential ‘must be done with an organised group, registered charity or AAP’. So, you can complete a DofE residential with a commercial organisation, but it would be very rare to complete a residential for a commercial organisation. While many participants will undertake their Residential section with a commercial AAP, they are not completing the residential for them by working for the company itself.

Why can’t fresher’s week count as a Residential section activity?

While some elements of a fresher’s week might make it seem like a suitable residential activity, it’s not:

– You cannot count your day to day work/training as a DofE sectional activity. University core activities fall into this.

– When people are a resident at a fresher’s week, they are generally resident at home (albeit that it might be a fairly new home!). This is contrary to the rules around activity outside of the normal environment and nights away.

– There is no shared activity as a group – while all students may be on fresher’s week, they will not be at the same activities every day or evening as a group.

– The activities should broaden experiences and interests through ‘purposeful activity which develops skills or interests.

– There is a question as to who the Assessor would be and on what activity participants are being assessed.

Can a school trip count for a DofE residential as pupils often don’t know each other or the teachers leading the trip.

No. This is covered in The Handbook for DofE Leaders which states participants ‘must join a residential activity as an individual and not part of an existing group of friends. It is acceptable to know a few of the others taking part, but the vast majority should not be people already known to the participant. This should also include the staff running the residential. This is because developing the social skills to establish new friendships and working relationships is an essential part of this section. School or youth group trips are therefore not acceptable.’

Additionally, the residential needs to provide an opportunity for interaction with people from different walks of life, ages and backgrounds which usually cannot be done from a single school environment. A DofE residential is an opportunity for a young person to step outside of their usual environment, routine and social setting, giving them the opportunity to find out more about themselves and who they see themselves as. This cannot take place if they undertake the residential with other people who already know them and have a set idea of who that person is.

The only exception to this is where a school might join with several other schools to set up a joint residential experience run by a third party where the staff are unknown, and each school is thus a minority of the group. Even in these rare cases careful steps must be taken to ensure that students from the schools are always mixed, including the evenings and overnight.

How does the minimum of five people work on a residential? Do people there/local people count and what about joining people on a longer residential?

It is essential that there should be at least five people on a residential experience. This means that all five are meeting the requirements of the section that they are away from home and in an unfamiliar environment with people they don’t know. For this reason, local people and staff are not counted as being on the residential. It means that an individual who is meeting the requirements cannot simply join an existing team or complete a homestay living with four members of a family.

It is important that all five people are on the same residential experience. There may be a situation where three young people volunteer to do two months teaching in Africa and have a week overlap with the three young people coming to do the next three months. While there are now six people on a residential experience they are on different experiences as the first three people now know each other and the environment they are in.

Can a National Citizens Service placement be used for a DofE Residential section?

Most should fit the criteria, but it is important to talk with your DofE Leader or Licensed Organisation and use the Residential section checklist to agree in advance if the specific opportunity counts. The checklist is available online here.

Can a university taster week count for the DofE Residential section?

Yes, as long as it meets DofE requirements and the five considerations of the Residential section. Unlike a fresher’s week which does not count, university taster weeks tend to have a subject focus and set timetables which provide a structured experience for young people. As with all Residential section activities participants should confirm with their DofE Leader / LO in advance that their specific opportunity will count for their DofE Award.

Can young people who have additional needs undertake their Residential section with their carers?

Yes – if a young person is reliant on a carer then they may be present. However, the Residential section is all about being away from the people you know, so a carer should only attend if it is really necessary. The participant will need to agree this in advance with their LO before booking/attending the Residential activity to be sure that they can use this flexibility in their case.

What does shared activity mean?

A shared activity is one undertaken by all the participants together, all achieving the same aims and having the same experience. It would not include working alongside those doing their paid job, or teaching a group of younger people, as they will be on a different residential experience. Participants can be of any age, but all must be sharing the same activity.

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