story 20 June 2023

Young Leaders Programme: Jemma’s experience

Jemma, DofE Manager and involved in the DofE Young Leaders Programme.

Jemma is Head of the P.E Department and DofE Manager at Burntwood School in Wandsworth, London. When she first heard about the DofE Young Leaders Programme, she immediately knew she wanted her students to get involved. Only a couple of months into the programme, Jemma has already seen the benefits. Her Young Leaders have bee proactive, motivated and taken some of the workload off her.

1. What do you enjoy the most about being involved in the DofE?

“Being the DofE Manager is probably the most rewarding part of my job. I was involved in the expedition section in my previous job so I already knew the impact it had on students – it was amazing to give them the opportunity to leave the city, for some of them it was the first time they’d ever seen stars! But now as DofE Manager I get to be involved in every DofE section – it means I get to see another side of the young people, a more creative side. A few of them have been doing origami for their Skills section, and we  featured in the news about girls getting into skateboarding for the Physical section. Then Volunteering makes young people think about their community – some of them really choose activities that make a difference. It’s a good opportunity for them to think about other people.”

2. Why did you decide to get involved in the Young Leaders programme?

“When I heard about the DofE Young Leaders Programme in the Autumn, I immediately said yes. I’m a yes person, but I could see this was going to be a great opportunity for our students. I put it out to year 9s and 10s and they had to fill out an application form. We now have two Young Leaders, and they are both really engaged, motivated and so helpful. They are able to take some of the weight off me, which has been amazing. I really hope the programme continues – what a great idea!”

“Both of our Young Leaders have started their online training and chosen two units. Once they’d attended their first session, we sat down together and discussed what they had learnt, and what they’d like to get out of it. They both found the training really easy to access and were surprised by how many young people were attending the training course.”

3. What has been the biggest help?

“The biggest help so far has probably been the eDofE module, as it saves me a lot of time. An hour quickly goes once you’ve spent time approving sections, making sure they’re choosing an activity that is challenging them, that they’ve uploaded evidence. This means the Young Leaders doing this for their volunteering makes a big difference to my workload.”

“It was also great that the DofE organised all of the online training, I could quickly set them up and they were ready to start using eDofE. As our enrolment numbers increase we have more and more participants on the system, meaning it takes more and more time to go through all of the notifications. Having help from the Young Leaders means I can keep on top of these notifications and keep everyone engaged in their DofE so they don’t fall behind.”

“Our other Young Leader is interested in fundraising, and I’ve told her she can run with whatever she wants. She came up with a list of three ideas, and wrote down the pros and cons of each, so she really thought it through. So far the top ideas have been a non-uniform day, or a DofE stand at the summer fair. The money raised will go towards the costs of running DofE, but they’ve put a vote up on Teams so that the participants decide on what the money will be spent on – for example one idea was to place an order of DofE hoodies. I didn’t have the time to put into this side of things, so it was a relief when they were able to move it forwards.”

“I’ve also added them to our DofE Teams channel, which has meant they can regularly keep in touch with the groups they’re helping with, and remind them about upcoming sessions or filling out their eDofE. I know I can trust them to have the responsibility when I’ve got other things going on. They’re both really reliable and support the areas that I need it.”

4. What difference have you seen in the students that take part in the programme?

“It’s a bit early to say, but I can already see they’ve started to make great progress. I’m expecting them to become more confident as they do more with their role. I also think a big thing is they’ll have an understanding of what goes into something like the DofE – it’s giving them good skills for the future – organisation, time management, being a role model, learning from other people and being someone supportive to the younger years.”

“The DofE is already a massive challenge for some young people, but the Young Leaders Programme is an opportunity for them to stretch themselves even further.”

5. How do you plan to engage with the programme going forwards?

“We were restricted to two places this year, but I think I would put a maximum of four forward each year to make sure there is the right workload for each of them. I know lots of other students will be keen next year.”

6. What would you say to someone considering getting involved in the DofE Young Leaders Programme?

“Go for it! It’s been such a positive thing that I’ve signed up for, I’m really glad DofE have thought of it – it’s already really helped me. I also liked that it wasn’t all done through me – the fact that DofE supply the training, the modules and the admin has meant I haven’t had to worry about the extra workload. I think it’s also meant they have more ownership over it – they are the ones who tell me about the process.”

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