More than 321,000 young people started their Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in 2021/22, newly released figures reveal – the highest in the charity’s 66-year history.
The record-breaking numbers, published today, show a surge in appetite for extracurricular opportunities like the DofE, as young people continue to navigate challenges left by the pandemic and future uncertainties, including a cost-of-living crisis.
The DofE’s annual statistics also show that:
- 485,945 young people across the UK are currently working towards a DofE Award.
- Young people gave 2 million hours of volunteering in 2021/22 through their DofE, with an equivalent of just under £10 million in paid working hours – showing their capacity to be a powerful force for good, despite the challenges of recent years.
- 30.5% of 14 year olds in the UK started a Bronze DofE programme in 2021/22.
Young people’s education, mental health and social lives have been massively affected by the pandemic, with those experiencing marginalisation hardest hit. Non-formal educational opportunities like the DofE, which are open to all young people, are needed now more than ever. They offer young people the chance to develop vital skills, confidence and resilience to help them take on challenges and fulfil their potential.
Opening up access
These are the first annual statistics published by the DofE since it launched a new five-year strategy in 2021. The charity is working to reach one million young people by 2026, with a focus on widening access to young people facing marginalisation – such as those experiencing poverty, those who have additional needs and young people from minority ethnic backgrounds.
In the last year, the DofE has:
- started ambitious projects to support more youth organisations in the UK’s most deprived areas, and schools in the most deprived parts of England, to offer the DofE.
- expanded the DofE in prisons and young offender institutions.
- launched a UK-wide project to support more young people with disabilities and additional needs to do their DofE.
- recruited Youth Ambassadors to put young people at the heart of the charity’s work.
The DofE is a non-competitive, personal challenge open to all young people aged 14-24. It is run in schools, colleges, youth and sports clubs, prisons and young offender institutions, hospitals and many more, across the UK.
Ruth Marvel, The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award CEO, said:
“The pandemic has had an immeasurable impact on young people, and there are more challenges to come. But these record-breaking figures show an amazing, motivated generation, refusing to be defined by those challenges, looking for opportunities to develop skills, broaden their horizons and make a positive difference to the world around them. We owe it to all young people to give them access to those opportunities.
“Thanks to our incredible volunteers, we’re already reaching many more young people – but there’s more to do. Over the next year, we’ll be building on this work to make sure more young people in the UK’s most deprived areas, and more young people with additional needs, have the chance to do their DofE.”
Kayleigh Ptak’s story
Image: Kayleigh Ptak (20), from Perth in Scotland, completed her Gold DofE in 2022
Kayleigh Ptak (20), from Perth, Scotland, has autism and cerebral palsy. She has been doing her Gold DofE throughout the pandemic and has recently successfully completed her Residential. For her Physical section, Kayleigh travelled 526 miles – the equivalent distance from John O’Groats to Sheffield – using her wheelchair, walking sticks and exercise bike.
Kayleigh, who struggles with anxiety, found the DofE a lifeline during the height of the pandemic – with her Skills section offering her essential routine. Watch Kayleigh’s full story.
Kayleigh Ptak said: “The DofE has been life-changing for me, it has made me more confident and independent as a person. I feel like I’ve gained more resilience too. DofE has shown me that, no matter what ability you have, where you come from or what you want to do in life, you’re able to take part in this amazing opportunity.
“Due to my disabilities, I never thought this was something I was able to do. But I discovered that, even though I’ve come through challenges in life due to my conditions, the DofE has shown me that my disabilities aren’t limiting and I can do amazing things.”
Young people doing their DofE made a positive difference in communities all over the UK in 2021/22, giving more than 2 million hours of volunteering in support of a wide variety of causes – from cleaning local beauty spots and protecting wildlife to setting up charities to tackle poverty and hunger. Many contributed to the COVID relief effort, volunteering at foodbanks, sewing PPE, shopping for neighbours and even singing online for care homes.