It’s clear that the long-lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic may mean Licensed Organisations (LOs) and Approved Activity Providers (AAPs) face barriers in delivering ‘traditional’ expeditions for some time. Each DofE centre will need to follow the specific guidance and rules for their sector, and their own local policies and procedures, when planning expeditions.

Guidance for centres in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will vary. You must follow the restrictions in place in the country you intend to visit.

If you are delivering the DofE in England, the DfE has issued guidance and the National Youth Agency has also published information for managing youth sector activities.

If you are delivering the DofE in Scotland, please review the guidance issued by the Scottish Government, Youth Scotland and/or Youth Link Scotland, as appropriate.

If you are delivering the DofE in Wales, please review the guidance issued by the Welsh Government.

If you are delivering the DofE in Northern Ireland, please review the guidance issued by EANI and the recovery plan outlined by the NI Executive, as well as information on outdoor recreation.

You may also wish to review advice published by the OEAP (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) or by SAPOE (Scotland) on the implications of COVID-19 for educational visits.

Expedition flexibilities that will apply until 31 July 2021

With social distancing restrictions seeming likely to remain in place in one way or another for some time, we’ve made a number of temporary rule changes to the Expedition section. These changes will help LOs and AAPs to run expeditions to support 2020’s new cohort of participants and those young people whose expeditions have been delayed. This is likely to be outside the ‘usual’ expedition season – although it’s worth noting that DofE expeditions can always be run at any point of the year.

The rule changes are as follows:

1. Bronze participants who progress to Silver will be able to use their Silver practice expedition as their qualifying expedition at Bronze, enabling them to achieve both their Bronze and Silver Awards. This expedition must meet the minimum requirements of the Silver practice expedition (two days and two nights). Participants wishing to do a combined Silver/Bronze expedition must meet the age requirements of the higher level (they must be in the year group in which their peers turn 15) and they must be enrolled at Silver. Similarly, Silver participants who progress to Gold will be able to use their Gold practice expedition as their qualifying expedition at Silver. This expedition must meet the requirements of the Silver qualifying expedition (three days and two nights). In addition, participants wishing to do a combined Gold/Silver expedition must meet the age requirements of the higher level (they must be at least 16 years old) and they must be enrolled at Gold. As practice expeditions are not under qualifying conditions, combined expeditions will not require an Accredited Expedition Assessor, even if being used for a qualifying expedition.

2. At Silver and Gold level, practice expeditions and qualifying expeditions can be delivered ‘back to back’.

3. We have relaxed the rules around recommended environments, so participants don’t have to leave their local area to complete an expedition – for example, Gold expeditions are able to take place outside of wild country. If you are planning an expedition in a wild country area, then you are still required to complete a Green Form and you will be given a notification number which you can enter on eDofE. If you are planning a Gold level expedition outside of a wild country area then you do not need to submit a form and will not need to enter a notification number on eDofE.

4. Leaders can use motorised transport to take participants to the start point of their route and pick them up at their end point. Travel to and from the expedition location each day is additional to the required hours of activity time.

5. Teams at all Award levels are allowed to return home to sleep during their expedition. They should, however, still plan and cook their meals as a team, and of course meet the minimum hours of planned activity during each day. Expeditions must be self-sufficient so, even though participants are going home to sleep, they need to carry appropriate expedition kit. Participants should carry some form of shelter and warmth in case of emergency, although this could be a survival shelter rather than a tent. Participants should also carry all of the food and clothing that they will need for the whole expedition.

6. Expedition Assessors for Silver and Gold levels can temporarily be known to the group (this includes helping run the DofE group, or supporting expedition training) – although they must still be an Accredited Assessor.

We’ll also provide practical support to help LOs deliver expeditions, including guidance to help them run expeditions over the winter, reflecting the need to accommodate reduced daylight and colder weather.

Read more about these temporary expedition flexibilities in our Q&As.

Expeditions in restricted outdoor spaces

As part of the temporary changes, expeditions can now be run in restricted outdoor spaces such as school grounds. This model offers LOs and AAPs greater flexibility in delivering expeditions whilst following the specific guidance and rules for their sector, and their own local policies and procedures.

We’ve developed resources to support LOs to deliver expeditions in restricted outdoor spaces.

Something different

We’re also investigating the possibility of introducing an alternative experience to the expedition for participants later this year. If a suitable experience is developed, it will deliver the same learning outcomes as the Expedition section, but in a format that enables participants to comply with social distancing rules. 

We’ll keep sharing details on all of the above in coming weeks – and local Operations Teams will work with LOs to help decide which solutions are right for their participants, depending on their circumstances. These are options for Leaders to choose from, and can be used in varying combinations. Operations Officers are on hand to help LOs in their planning.