Shrewsbury School

Gold Award

Where:  Various
  Enrolments in September and January annually
  Lower Sixth
Person in charge:  Major Billington

The Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award recognises long term commitment in a number of activities.  Each candidate has to complete a period of time in a service, skill and physical activity.  The length of time varies but is normally from six to twenty-four months.

In addition candidates have to complete a week's residential course and a four-day expedition on foot, by canoe or sea kayak.  The assessment expedition will follow a period of training in the last week of August or October Exeat of the Upper Sixth.

A further practice expedition is offered to direct entrants in the Easter holidays.

The Gold Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme

The Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme comes in three stages:  Bronze, Silver and Gold.  Candidates may start the Award at any level at 14, 15 and 16 years respectively.  Candidates have until they are 25 years of age to complete, although we encourage completions before leaving the school.

Each level is broken into sections.  The 'Skills' section is normally a hobby or non-physical activity.  The 'Service' section is normally a service to the community/a person in need or a uniformed service activity.  The 'Physical' is a sporting activity.  Finally, the 'Expedition' section is two, three or four days in length and can be completed by foot, canoe, kayak, horse, mountain bike or boat.  In addition, the Gold level of the Award has a section called 'Residential'.  This section encourages a young person to live away from home within a community for a period of five consecutive days.

All the candidates receive a comprehensive brief of the Award Scheme at their level.

The Award Scheme has a strong ethos of 'Self Motivation' and 'Personal Organisation' and all the candidates are asked to uphold these values and support the Award in this way.  So what does it mean?  Basically, it means that the candidate does it by themself.  Obviously pupils will need support and mentoring, but on the whole it is something they sort out independently.  Employers regard the award highly as it is such a good measure of personal responsibility and an indicator of 'soft skills', and we would all wish this to continue.  By all means support your son/daughter, but remember that it is their award and not yours.

The take up for the Award is great, and as with all things that take about two years to complete and are voluntary, the wastage rate is high.  It is my aim to identify those who will not complete early on, so that I can focus my attention on those who will complete.  I do this by having a selection programme.  It is very simple and very fair.  Interested pupils are invited to a meeting where they are issued an application form.  The form asks them to go away and research the activities that they propose to complete for each section of the Award and come up with a strategy.  The form also outlines proposed expedition dates and they are asked to indicate which expeditions they can attend.  The deadline for return of this form is tight, and failure to return the application on time immediately forfeits a place.  Initially, I don't turn anyone away who masters this initial task.  The second hurdle is to partially complete at least two sections of the Award prior to expedition training.  I have found it saves parents a considerable amount of money if I only train candidates who are sufficiently motivated to get all parts of the award underway.

The Award costs are split into three parts.  The Registration cost is £28, which includes the log book and record pack, a CD Rom, magazine, the ID/Discount Card.  This is issued on successful selection.  The second part of the cost is for training and the practice expedition. 

I run a training camp and first practice during the October Exeat (normally the first five days). This includes all the theory training including first aid, incident management, kit packing, kit care, cooking and nutrition on the mountains, mountain hazards, river and crossing, team work, basic and advanced navigation, navigation in poor conditions and plenty more.  This week will cost between £140 and £170 depending on the mode of travel selected, and the nature of the accommodation used.  Please note kayakers are not required to attend this package, but they must gain three star kayak skills through the school kayak club.

I then run a second practice during the Easter Break.  This falls at both ends of the Easter holidays for about five days.  One trip will be a water venture the other a land based venture. 

Finally, there is the cost for the Assessment Expedition.  This ranges from £100 to £800 depending on the nature of the expedition and location.  Depending on take up, I will run one walking expedition, one canoeing expedition and one sea kayaking expedition each year.  The venue and dates will be determined by the candidates themselves, but normally are placed at either end of holiday periods, or after exams in the U6. 

Additional costs may be incurred depending on what Service, Skill and Physical activities a candidate undertakes.  These can be almost minimal if activities are confined to school activities.

The Award and the CCF
For those in the CCF, the Award Costs are greatly reduced.  The CCF nationally runs week long training, practice and assessment expeditions for £40 per week including free rail travel at the three national Cadet Centres for Adventure Training.

Sticking points

  • Changing an activity - The Award Scheme has a built in 'Joker' card, which allows a candidate to change one activity once during the commitment period.  This is useful for pupils that are involved in a seasonal sport for example.
  • Marathon not a Race - A major part of the Award is to show commitment over a long period of time - be it 12 months or two years.  If your child chooses an activity for a period, they need to show commitment for that whole period working an average of one hour per week.  Obviously some activities like volunteering with the National Trust take for example one day per month.  This is acceptable with special permission. 
  • Commitment periods - The Award has become much more flexible over the years.  Candidates have an element of choice when selecting how long they do each activity.  The Record Book also has a very clear table.
  • Record keeping - The Record Book is important.  It is imperative that it is completed fully and correctly.  Activity titles should be written as listed in the Programmes File/Website/Publications.  For example - Playing the Violin should be recorded as 'Playing a Musical Instrument - Violin'.  The Award process is now computerised and the computer rejects anything it does not recognise. 
  • Residential - The residential rules are quite clear, and I brief the candidates quite thoroughly on what is acceptable.  The activity must be for five days, four consecutive nights.  The activity must not be for monetary gain, and accommodation must be within a community.  A hotel is not acceptable.
  • The Award Journal (The Award Magazine) - This is an excllent publication.  It lists Residentials, Expeditions and Courses.
  • Can't make a School Expedition - Not to worry.  There are hundreds of providers out there that run training, practice expeditions and assessment expeditions.  I can recommend a few if you are stuck. 
  • Failure to hand in an Expedition Project - This is a real sticking point!  Having spent hundreds of pounds on the Expedition Section and arduous days in the hills doesn't mean the section is complete.  The Assessment Expedition has to follow with a 'Purpose' Project.  This is covered in the initial brief and more information can be found on the Award Website.
  • Back-dating Activities - The Award accepts that some candidates have participated in activity prior to starting the Award.  It will (with advance warning) allow back-dating for up to three months on special occasions.  This is a privilege however and not recommended.
  • Dates - Please ensure all dates fit as required.  The computer will spit them out otherwise.  For example, start dates must not be before the minimum age of entry.  Start dates must be after the sign up date unless special permission to back-date has been obtained.  Finish dates must be after the commitment period for the activity.  Expedition training dates must be filled in and the training signed off prior to an assessment expedition (as this could invalidate insurance).
  • Insurance - All pupils engaged in school activities are insured by the schools' very comprehensive insurance.  All pupils that are in possession of a correctly filled out record book and registration ID number are insured by the Award Scheme whilst on recognised Award Activities.  This insurance is very basic and details can be sought from the Award website.

Equipment for the Expedition
Candidates will get training on expedition packing and preparation prior to expeditioning.  Expensive group items can be drawn from stores.  Some 'cheaper' items can be purchased from the CCF Shop (in CCF HQ), such as Knife, Fork and Spoon sets, Rucksack liners etc.  The ID card enclosed with the Record Book Pack includes a discount card for Millets and Blacks.

Other sources of information
Publications like the Award Journal, Programmes File and Expedition Handbook are available in the Library and Award Office.  The website is an excellent source of information.

Risk Management
The subject of risk is a question asked more and more by parents.  As with all things there is an element of risk in all parts of the Award, however every effort is made to minimise risk.  In terms of the expedition, we only use Licensed AALA (Adventure Activities Licensing Authority) Instructors who hold the necessary qualification for the activity for example Mountain Leader (Summer) Award holders for foot expeditions and Canoeing Level Two Coaches for open boating expeditions.  Obviously, risk assessments are compiled prior to every expeditioning activity, and a process of dynamic risk management is ongoing throughout an expedition.

On completion of the Award, a candidate will be asked to complete a form and photocopy their log book.  This will be despatched to the Award HQ in Windsor where the information will be processed.  Sadly, with the number of completions it takes some 18 months before a candidate will get an invitation to the Palace to collect their certificate.  I hold a presentation annually in school for candidates who have submitted completion forms.

More Information
If you have any further questions, and you can’t find the relevant information on the Award website, please do not hesitate to contact me.  Periodically I shall invite candidates to make an appointment to update me of their progress.

Medical Documents
Medical forms will be sent out with each pack of consent forms that accompany each expedition.  This ensures they are current and up to date.

Johanne Billington
Gold Expedition Award Officer
Shrewsbury School

Tel/Fax:  01743 280855          Email:

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