What Does the DofE Award Entail?

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The Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) award is a common extracurricular for students in the UK, normally from Year 10 onwards. It’s therefore likely that you will have heard people talk about this award, maybe in relation to putting it on a CV, or completing one of the sections. You might want to enrol on the programme yourself, but not know entirely what you are getting yourself into. This article is here to help – what exactly does the DofE award entail?

The DofE award involves completing several extracurricular activities overall several months, in the categories of a skill, a physical activity, and volunteering. Finally, you complete an expedition, which involves hiking and camping overnight. You’ll have a leader to oversee and sign off on these activities, and the completion of all the sections gets you a DofE award!

This is a brief overview of the process, so keep reading for everything you have to do to achieve a DofE award, and a more detailed breakdown of each of the sections involved.

What does the DofE award entail?

Firstly, if you need a full guide to what exactly the DofE is, check out this Think Student article. For more on what you actually have to do for this award, keep reading!

You normally enrol to do the DofE award with your school, so you might have heard teachers or other students talking about it. But there are other organisations who run it, like Scouts or Guides.

You’ll sign up, and be assigned a leader, normally a school teacher, who oversees DofE. You’ll get an eDofE login for a website that can be used to log your progress and activities.

The first half of DofE is split into 3 activities – a skill, a physical activity, and volunteering. You choose a certain activity for each, and work on it for at least an hour a week over several months. For each one, you’ll have an official assessor, who oversees your progress for that particular section.

The exact time periods depend on which level of DofE you are doing: Bronze, Silver or Gold. For more information on the specific requirements for each level, check out this Think Student article.

The second half involves an expedition, travelling and camping across public countryside to develop skills including navigation, physical strength and first aid.

This will be directed by your school or the organisation you’re doing the award with. However, you’ll complete the expedition itself in a small group with your peers, largely unaccompanied by teachers or other adults.

Finally, for the Gold level only, you will complete a residential. This will be away from home for 4 nights, with people you do not know, developing key communication and teamwork skills.

For more on the residential section, as well as an overview of the other sections, have a look at this page from the DofE website. I also recommend you check out this Think Student article for residential ideas.

What is the ‘Skills’ section of DofE?

The ‘Skills’ section of DofE involves, as the name suggests, anything that develops an extracurricular skill. This may sound vague, because there is a huge range of activities you can do for this section.

It might be that something you already do counts towards the skills section. If you play an instrument, for example, any music lessons could count, with your teacher as your assessor.

Alternatively, DofE is a great opportunity to try something new. You could join a local group for anything from theatre to chess. Or you could develop a skill at home with an online course, such as embroidery or a new language.

You can check out this document from the DofE website for a big list of ideas for your skills section.

As mentioned, you’ll do this activity for an hour each week (or more!). One key thing to note is that a part-time job likely won’t be eligible, according to the official DofE website. For more on this, and other FAQs about the skills section, check out this page from the DofE website.

What is the ‘Physical’ section of DofE?

This section involves developing your abilities in a particular sport. This section is a great chance to join a team or club, whether that be in school or outside it.

Common sports like football and netball definitely count towards this section. However, you might also want to try out something a bit more niche. Martial arts definitely count, and build a whole range of skills like self-defence and confidence as well.

If you find it difficult to find a club near you to join, you can also do the physical section on your own. You could take up running or take online fitness classes from home. For plenty more ideas, check out this document from the DofE website.

What is the ‘Volunteering’ section of DofE?

As the name suggests, this section involves completing some sort of volunteer work. Many students choose to volunteer in a charity shop or for a food bank, as these are relatively easy to find and sign up for.

However, as with the other sections, there are a huge range of options for you to choose from. If you are already an active part of an extracurricular, it’s worth checking if they have volunteering opportunities available.

For example, if you are part of a sports club, you might be able to voluntarily coach younger students.

Once again, the DofE website has plenty of ideas if you aren’t sure what to do, which can be found here. You can also check out FAQs about the volunteering section on their website here.

What is the ‘Expedition’ section of DofE?

The expedition section, as mentioned, involves travelling in rural areas and camping overnight – or for several nights, for more advanced levels.

You’ll not only have to do the expedition but prepare for it. This includes training, such as pitching a tent and how to use a compass, which should be organised by school or whoever is running the award.

It may also include a practice expedition as well as the real thing, although this isn’t compulsory for Bronze. For more on this, check out this Think Student article.

On the expedition itself, you won’t have help from teachers – you’ll have to navigate yourself, and deal with any issues that arise without just googling it! That being said, there will normally be checkpoints with responsible adults along your planned route.

The final thing to note is that you don’t necessarily have to do the expedition on foot, although this is the most common. You could decide to complete it by bike, or even boat!

What else do you need to do for your DofE award?

There isn’t a final exam or anything of the kind for the DofE qualification. Instead, all you need to do is complete the individual sections and have them signed off by your leader.

Throughout the course of your award, you collect evidence of your activities. This could be by writing a log of what you did that week, signed by you section assessor.

It could also be in picture form – so if your skill was cooking, it could be pictures of what you have produced each week. You can then upload these to your eDofE portal for your leader to check through.

Finally, once you’ve completed the required length of time for the first three sections, your assessor will fill out a report on your achievements and progress.

This report then goes to your leader, who checks it and signs off that section as complete.

The expedition works slightly differently, as of course, you aren’t doing it over several months. Instead, once you and your team have successfully completed the expedition, your leader will sign this section off on your portal.

Once all four sections have been signed off as completed, you will have achieved your DofE award. You’ll soon get a certificate, as evidence of your qualification, and to say well done for completing it!

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