Read his story: Former student James Solly received his Gold @DofE Award at St James' Palace
I was shocked to hear that so few students around the country decide to take the Duke of Edinburgh Award all the way to Gold; I believe I’m the first in the Academy’s history to reach the achievement. The scheme is great fun and you get to take part in all kinds of opportunities that you wouldn’t in everyday life.
The Duke of Edinburgh Award is broken down into sections; Physical, Skill, Volunteering and Expedition for Bronze and Silver and the addition of a Residential for Gold.
The Physical section is designed to improve your physical fitness and health through weekly activities. These ranged from team and individual sports to dance and fitness classes. I played football for a team and used this as my Physical activity. The improved fitness from weekly sports will also help during the expeditions.
The Skill section is intended so that the participator gains something from the Award that will be useful for the rest of their lives. Ideas include learning to play an instrument to taking up an interest in art or writing. I learned to cook for my first couple of years and then for my Gold, I took driving lessons. Both of these skills will be very useful in later life.
The Volunteering section is aimed at giving something back to the wider community. All participants must take part in volunteering programmes ranging from charity work to helping neighbours with small jobs around the house. I chose to help a younger student by tutoring them in Maths and this ultimately ended in them improving their grades which was rewarding both for the student and myself.
The expeditions were personally my most enjoyable part of the Award. In a small group of people and with nothing more than a map, compass and rucksack, you must navigate from checkpoint to checkpoint to reach camp where you will then stay the night in a tent and cook for yourselves.
Sandwell Academy give a lot of support for you to be able to complete the challenge. A large percentage of the cost for each student is subsidised by the school and Mr Sturley and Mr Topper are always on hand to help when needed. I am looking forward to representing Sandwell Academy at St James’s Palace when I collect the award from the Duke of Edinburgh himself.
The award has definitely set me up for where I am today. It really makes you stand out in university applications / CV’s as you demonstrate through the award that you have the skills and commitment that will be useful in further education or employment. For most jobs you need to be able to demonstrate that you are an able communicator and work well as part of a team and having the Duke of Edinburgh Award as part of your repertoire fully demonstrates this. I would strongly recommend the Duke of Edinburgh Award to everyone.