Central England News

Local news from the Central England Region

Volunteering gives you the chance to be part of a good cause, meet new people and help others. Whether you’re raising money for your favourite charity, using your skills and experience to help your local community or supporting young people to achieve their DofE Award – it all makes a difference.

Doing a DofE programme is all about going the extra mile – gaining new skills, pushing yourself physically, learning more about others and exploring new territories.

This month I am excited to share with you some examples that show how young people and adult volunteers have gone above and beyond to support others.

Jackie Bull
Central England – Regional Director

 Sidestrand Hall School’s first expedition success

Sidestrand Hall School in Norfolk is an SEN school which caters for a range of complex needs. Leon Wagge is the DofE Manager at the school and is delighted to have led his first Bronze expedition with a cohort of 12 young people. These 12 participants had a range of needs, including ADHD, visual impairment, deafness and cerebral palsy.

All the participants showcased excellent team-work and empathy for one another; when one person had backache, the team took it in turns to help carry her bag and ensure she completed her expedition. No one was left behind and the team ethic was fantastic. As soon as one tent was erected, the participants went and helped others erect theirs.

The expedition took place during a blistering heatwave and when all the participants came back onto the school grounds they lay on the ground to rest. Everyone was exhausted but had huge smiles on their faces as they reflected on their achievement.

Congratulations Leon on your first Bronze expedition and making it such a success!

Winstanley School’s sleep out for the Salvation Army 


Students from The Winstanley School in Leicestershire braved the cold to help raise money for the Salvation Army’s Christmas Appeal.

Ten students took part in a sleep-out with only a tarpaulin for shelter to have an insight of what life on the streets is like. The students needed to gather fuel for a fire which was their only source of heat and they cooked baked potatoes on the fire.

The students were lucky that they were able to stay on school grounds, where they knew they were safe. Most homeless people are often moved on with nowhere to go and are not in a safe environment. Stephanie Underwood, DofE Manager at the school said “The students experienced quite a mild night without rain but could easily empathise with a homeless person who was having to sleep alone or with people they did not know or trust.”.

The next morning the students were keen to return home and have a shower, breakfast and a change of clothes, however, it was made clear that homeless people do not have this luxury and would need to spend another day in the same clothes sleeping rough again.

The efforts of the students successfully raised £300 for the Salvation Army; this money will have provided a Christmas lunch for 15 people.

 A new career for Brandon 

Brandon is a 19-year-old learner at Community Learning in Partnership (CLIP) in Lincolnshire. CLIP is a training organisation who work with young people who may have experienced difficulties during their mainstream education. With help from the DofE Diamond Fund, CLIP is delighted to be able to offer young people the opportunity to take part in their DofE and potentially change their futures.

Brandon has dyslexia and autism and had found school a challenge. He went to CLIP looking to improve his academic qualifications and employment prospects. He was eligible to sign up for the DofE and has not looked back since. Jo Hoare, DofE Manager at CLIP said, “Whilst Brandon finds academic study challenging, it is fair to say he has excelled in developing his confidence, social and employability skills through working towards the completion of his Bronze DofE Award.”

Brandon has always had a keen interest in the Fire and Rescue service and decided for his skill section he would complete a research project to learn more about the work they do. He has had fantastic support from Lincolnshire Fire & Rescue in Gainsborough. The duty watch arranged for Brandon to have an in-depth tour of the station with kit demonstration and allowed him to take part in some casualty evacuation training.

Thanks to his time at the local Fire Station, Brandon is now inspired to research a future role as an on-call Fire Fighter.

DofE Manager Jo Hoare concludes “If ever there was an example of what difference a DofE Award can make to the life of a young man that has always found academic study and developing life/work skills difficult, this is it!”


Luton College Heroes Awards

Luton Sixth Form College recently held an annual ‘Heroes Awards’ ceremony to celebrate the successes of young people within the college.

We send our congratulations to Rhys Lewis who proudly collected ‘The Vice Principal’s Award’ in front of 350 people. ‘The Vice Principal’s Award’ is to recognise students which have made a significant contribution in enrichment activities or the community life of the college. Ian Francis, Vice Principal at the School, received nominations from every department, however, it was Rhys’s nomination which stood out to him.

Ian said “After his own qualifying expedition, Rhys volunteered to accompany first year students on their training camp – the first student in our history to do this. Rhys has brought a different perspective to the training experience and is now a valuable member of the staff DofE team.”.

Although Rhys has now left the college, he still returns as a Leader to share his expertise. Rhys explains “I feel that the DofE Award offers great opportunities to young people… The DofE Award has proved to me that all you need to do is have the right mentality and motivation and those barriers will fall as hard as you push them!”.

Ian Francis concludes that “Rhys exemplifies what a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award participant should be and he has gone above and beyond the standard expected of a student.”.

First Gold Award for The Westminster School

The Westminster School is an outstanding Special School in Rowley Regis which caters for pupils with Moderate Learning Difficulties.

Nick Foster has been the DofE Leader at The Westminster School for the last four years and was involved with running the DofE at his previous school. It was the idea that you could engage students who weren’t engaging well with traditional education that inspired him to get involved.

Achieving a DofE Award and taking the learning outdoors got some of his most deprived, uninterested students through school and onto jobs. He doesn’t believe this would have been possible without The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE).

DofE is included in the school’s curriculum; one day a week is dedicated to Bronze, Silver and Gold groups. The staff have noticed that the students who struggle in a classroom environment have really become more settled and engaged within the curriculum. It has enabled them to boost their career prospects and there is a real sense of pride amongst the students, staff and parents that comes with doing the DofE.

Parents of the participants have said it’s not only changed their child’s life, but also their own. It encourages them all to get out and about at the weekend, visiting nature reserves and areas of the local community that they perhaps wouldn’t have otherwise visited.

All three Bronze, Silver and Gold groups volunteer their time at a local nature reserve; creating Forest School areas, litter picking and keeping the area generally tidy.

For Nick, he enjoys seeing the young people he works with grow in confidence and raise their self-esteem. “Seeing pupils grow in confidence, who other people may not have given a chance at life. Growing from children into young adults, all whilst developing skills that are transferable.”  he continues, “I hope what we’ve achieved inspires more young people to start their DofE, but also I hope it inspires more staff to get involved and see the impact they can have on a young person who might be struggling with the traditional learning environment.”

 If you have a good news story you would like to share with the Region, please contact [email protected]  

In order to view our website, you need to upgrade your browser. Please consider the following options.

Google Chrome

Mozilla Firefox

Internet Explorer