What is the DofE Award?

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You may have come across the term ‘DofE’ before, particularly if you are a secondary school student. Schools will typically encourage their students to participate in DofE between Year 9 and 11. However, many students do not actually know how you attain the DofE Award or why it matters, which leaves students across the UK asking: what actually is the DofE Award?

The DofE Award is an award created in 1956 and has since continued as an achievable qualification. The award was first created to inspire young people to challenge themselves and to serve their communities; it retains those core values as part of the programme you must undertake to receive the award. DofE has three different levels: the Bronze Award, Silver Award and Gold Award.

This article will explain what the DofE award is, how to get it, and how important it is for your future!

What does DofE stand for?

DofE stands for The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. The Award was founded by the late Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh in 1956. It is considered the world’s leading youth achievement award, operating in over 140 countries.

The DofE Award was created to challenge young people aged 14-24 to achieve in a wide range of activities, involving their communities and engaging in adventure beyond the classroom.

The Award was originally only available to boys between the ages of 14 and 18, but in 1959 the programme was expanded for girls. To read more about the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and its history, you should visit this page of the Royal Family website.

How do you get the DofE Award?

There are four sections of the DofE programme: the Volunteering section, Physical section, Skills section, and Expedition sections. There is also a Residential section if you’re going for a Gold Award.

Here is what is required in each section:

  • The Volunteering Section requires volunteering activities – This will be talked about later in this article.
  • The Physical Section requires a sustained physical activity – a sport, dance, or fitness activity.
  • The Skills Section requires you to increase your expertise in a chosen skill – This shouldn’t be a sport, as this would count in the Physical section, but you could learn to be a coach in that sport.
  • The Expedition Section requires you to plan and complete a self-reliant expedition – you must have an aim and complete the correct training for your level.
  • The Residential section requires you to undertake a shared activity in a residential setting – This must be with people you don’t know and away from home.

For more information, you should read this page of the DofE website.

How long does it take to get the DofE award?

Check out the table below for timescales on each section for each award:

  Level of DofE Award
Section Bronze Silver Gold
Volunteering 3 months 6 months 12 months
Physical 3 months 3 or 6 months 6 or 12 months
Skills 3 months 3 or 6 months 6 or 12 months
Expedition 2 days, 1 night 3 days, 2 nights 4 days, 3 nights
Residential N/A N/A 5 days, 4 nights

For the Silver Award, your Skills and Physical sections must be 6 months and 3 months, but you can choose which section is which. The same applies to the Gold Award with 6 months and 12 months.

Timescales will vary depending on if you complete the different levels of the award in succession or jump straight to a higher level. To read more about DofE timescales, check out this page of the DofE website.

There are 20 conditions to achieving the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, which you can read on the DofE website, linked here.

What are the different levels of the DofE Award?

There are three different levels to the DofE Award: Gold, Silver, and Bronze. Gold is the best, and Bronze is the lowest level of the award. You can achieve different levels depending on the duration of and amount of activity completed during your expedition.

To achieve a Bronze Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, your DofE expedition must last a minimum of 2 days and 1 night, with 6 hours of planned activity every day.

To achieve a Silver Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, your DofE expedition must last a minimum of 3 days and 2 nights, with 7 hours of planned activity each day.

To achieve a Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, your DofE expedition must last a minimum of 4 days and 3 nights, with 8 hours of planned activity each day. These conditions are set out in the 20 conditions to achieving the DofE Award, linked for you here.

What volunteering can you do for DofE?

There are quite a lot of options when it comes to completing the Volunteering section of your Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.

Below is a list of some ideas for DofE volunteering:

  • Social campaigning – This could include things such as fundraising for a local charity, raising awareness for a cause that is important to you, managing and promoting social media for a community or charity, or starting a new campaign!
  • Public sector work – This could include things such as working with your local Scouts or Brownies pack to organise sessions, working in a care home, or working with a local food bank or soup kitchen.
  • Online volunteering -This could include things such as digital safety campaigns against things like cyberbullying, or research.
  • Conservation efforts – This could include things such as cleaning litter from your area or helping local conservation charities.

Volunteering opportunities can be limited if you are starting your DofE Award as an under 16. Check out this page of the DofE website for volunteering ideas if you’re under 16!

Even if you aren’t completing the DofE award, volunteering is still an amazing thing to do! You can check out this article from Think Student if you want to discover why.

Is the DofE Award a qualification?

According to the Open DofE website, “The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award is widely recognised by employers and education providers as the definitive qualification for demonstrating self-reliance, commitment and dedication”.

You can find this information on this page of the Open DofE website. The DofE is not a qualification in the same sense of an academic qualification, such as GCSEs or A-Levels.

However, a DofE Award is still a qualification in its own right! This means you can include it on things such as a UCAS application or a CV.

When you receive the award, you can receive a sectional certificate for each section of the DofE award that you complete. These will all be accredited by the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, so they are valid!

Is the DofE Award hard to get?

It’s fair to say that the DofE Award definitely takes a fair bit of effort to achieve. However, if you’re really dedicated and organised, then the DofE Award won’t be that hard to achieve.

It also depends on what level of the DofE Award you want to achieve. The different levels of the DofE Award have been discussed earlier in this article. If you’re aiming for a Gold Award, then it’s going to be significantly harder to achieve than a Bronze Award.

Generally, you can’t really get away with putting in the minimum effort for a DofE Award. It’s a serious commitment, but the reward is a serious qualification that you can say you truly earned!

You should think about how much effort you’re willing to put in before you choose to start the DofE. I’d always recommend trying your hardest!

Do universities/employers care about DofE?

As you’ve seen, attaining the DofE Award at any level requires some work. Is it really worth it if universities or employers don’t care about it?

Mentioning your DofE award on your UCAS application is definitely a good idea! It gives the universities something to ask you about in your interviews; the award is a good way of demonstrating that you are committed and able to cope with challenges.

If you’d like to read some advice from a DofE Gold Award holder about putting your DofE on your UCAS statement, check out this page of the DofE website.

The same goes for employers! In 2019, DofE conducted a survey of over 500 UK businesses. They reported that “95% also believe that extra-curricular activities like the DofE, which help to develop soft skills, are just as important on your CV as academic qualifications”.

You can read more about how the DofE helps your future on this page of the DofE website.

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