When I shared a message back in May, the UK – and most of the world – was in the thick of lockdown, with little understanding of how this year would play out. Now, in the autumn season, it’s clear that we all need to find our way of living with the virus, as safely as possible, so important activities can start again or carry on, whilst continuing to protect the most vulnerable in our society.
The return of schools, in Scotland in August and the rest of the UK this month, is hugely welcomed. Young people need education – and I know how challenging it has been for many of our Licensed Organisations (LOs) and volunteers to deliver that education remotely. This autumn, the DofE is here to support young people and LOs as they transition back to the school environment. It’s a useful tool to open up young people’s worlds, that shrunk during lockdown, inspire young people with new interests and activities, and give them structure and purpose that can translate to classroom and remote academic learning.
The pandemic didn’t stop DofE operations, we’ve been here throughout. But this autumn, with the majority of our colleagues back from furlough, we’re fully equipped and ready to help each and every one of our LOs and their young people to deliver and do DofE. We don’t want young people to miss out on gaining the benefits of an Award – an Award that builds resilience and confidence, and holds so much currency in the jobs market, when it’s needed most. So, we’ve introduced a number of flexibilities and initiatives, including temporary programme changes, the Certificate of Achievement and online training, and created new resources such as the recruitment and delivery toolkits, all under the DofE With A Difference umbrella.
Safety continues to be our absolute priority, and it’s at the heart of everything we do. Young people can carry on doing their DofE activities from home if they wish and DofE staff will continue to work remotely whilst we develop our plans for a phased return to offices and socially-distanced meetings later in the year. There is a risk that Operations colleagues visiting multiple schools and other DofE centres could inadvertently spread the virus, so before we re-start these visits, we want to ensure we’ve done everything we can to mitigate the risk. The last six months have proved how effective remote operational support can be, and we’ll take a cautious path to defining ‘new normal’ working practices, with no compromise on protecting the health and safety of everyone involved in DofE.
I know it’ll be a tricky time navigating the rest of this year and into the next, but I have every confidence in us – our charity, young people, LOs, volunteers, supporters and others – working together to transform the prospects of this so-called COVID generation by creating and enabling DofE opportunities across the UK.
Thank you for everything you do for young people: their – and all our – futures depend on it.