COVID-19 pressed the pause button on young people’s lives across the UK. But for one group of school students in Scotland, there was no stopping them during lockdown.
“I was very involved with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award at school before March,” explains Connor. “I was participating in DofE activities at least three times a week, including volunteering in local primary schools and I’d completed my expedition. I really missed doing it all during lockdown so, in the summer, I started going out on my bike to carry on with my Physical section.”
Emma, another DofE participant at the school, says, “Before lockdown, my classmates and I were in the middle of our Bronze Award. I was really gutted when we had to stop, especially because I missed going on my expedition. I couldn’t wait to get involved in DofE again.”
“I had put so much effort into achieving my Bronze Award and I felt disappointed when I couldn’t attend my Awards ceremony because of lockdown,” adds another student, Tiegan. “I did really miss working with my classmates and our DofE Leader but I pushed myself to go cycling with my brothers and do long walks on the beach to keep my fitness up.”
Although the students prioritised their physical health during the COVID-19 lockdown, it was their mental health that was most affected by not being able to go to school or do their DofE. They are not alone. We recently conducted a survey of DofE participants, which showed that more than half (54%) worry that stress, anxiety or other mental health issues could increase if they are not able to continue with extracurricular learning.
For young people like Emma, Tiegan and Connor, who face socio-economic challenges that have been heightened by the pandemic, having the opportunity to do the DofE is more important than ever for their general wellbeing and future prospects. Returning to school and doing DofE activities has given them a much-needed focus.
“DofE gives me something to concentrate on and takes my mind off stuff,” says Connor. “During lockdown, I felt quite isolated. Being back at school gives me the chance to see friends and our DofE Leader and get support if I need it.”
As Emma notes, “Thinking about going back to school and doing DofE made me feel cheerful. I like working in a team and I feel grateful to my teammates and my Leader for this amazing opportunity.”
“DofE has helped me after lockdown as I was so worried about everything. Now, I have a feeling of relief,” comments Tiegan. “It pushes me out of my comfort zone but also makes me feel safe and secure.”