Yesterday I was at a roadshow given by the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme for the South East Region. (If you haven’t heard of the Award or want to find out what you have to do to complete it have a look here.) It was a really interesting presentation as the Charity is looking to up date it’s image and develop more interactive / web based systems. This was very positive and also ties in with a lot of the work we are doing across the county to develop our monitoring and information systems and hopefully (fingers crossed) their system will help with this!
As a County we support the DofE and use it as one of the main forms of accrediting young people’s activities. Knowing that there is occasionally an image problem with the Duke of Edinburghs Award we have worked hard to try to ensure that it is available for all young people and that they can all have a go at the Award.
This has meant that we have made a lot of use of Sectional Certificates (where a young person completes a part of the Award for instance the Expedition) and then gets recognition for this. We have also used ‘Access Certificates’ where a young person completes a part of the Award maybe the skills section with the local canoe club and can then sign up, or not, to complete the rest of it if they wish.
For us the key objective is that young people have the opportunity to take part in a personal development programme that is based on their interests and is something that has national recognition (especially outside of youth work settings). It was therefore somewhat disconcerting to hear that those involved in developing the award appear more concerned with ‘completion’ rates and individuals completing the ‘whole’ award. When asked whether they were going to get rid of access organisations (places like leisure centres, youth centres etc that are monitored by those that hold a licence, usually the local authority) they said that it was under consideration. We pushed to find out why and were told that people were abusing the system, when we tried to find out what this abuse was it came down to the fact that young people were then not signing up for the whole award.
For me this goes against all the work that we have been trying to do. Any system of accreditation has to take into account the young person’s needs and interests and surely should be about the young persons journey. I found it disturbing that the organisation is potentially going down to a one size fits all mode. Fortunately this is under discussion and hopefully we will be able to influence that decision!