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Celebrating Duke of Edinburgh Achievements

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Pupils, parents and members of staff filled the Girls’ Division Great Hall on a warm spring evening to celebrate those who have achieved Duke of Edinburgh Awards in the past academic year.

An introduction to Outdoor Learning at Bolton School was given by Ms Bradford-Keegan (Girls’ Division Assistant Head, Curricular and Extra-Curricular Activity). She commented that Bolton School pupils are taking part in more and more outdoor pursuits to build soft skills, defying reports that nationally children spend too much time indoors. She also pointed out that, in addition to the excitement and trepidation of expeditions, pupils complete physical, skills and volunteering sections. In particular, the community service aspect of the Awards dovetails with the Bolton School ethos. This academic year, the School has won both the TES Independent School of the Year Award 2019 and the Independent School Parent (ISP) School of the Year Award 2018, with judges of both competitions highlighting the School’s role in the local community as a deciding factor: this is largely a testament to the hours of volunteering carried out by pupils as part of their Duke of Edinburgh Awards.

Ms Bradford-Keegan then handed over to six students so that they could share their experiences of completing the Award at different levels.

Millie Ashton in Year 10 achieved the Bronze Award last summer and only needs to complete the qualifying expedition to finish her Silver Award. Volunteering to coach tennis helped her to develop her own game, while drumming as part of a county band improved her confidence. She recalled “walking in the hottest summer ever” for her Bronze expedition and noted that her Silver Award provided opportunities to get to know new people through her skills section, shooting with Bolton Gun Club, and canoeing for the expedition. She advised other pupils to combine something new with something they love to succeed at further levels of the Awards.

Zayd Ascroft in Year 11 talked about his humorous experiences volunteering with the Beavers and the fun he has had playing hockey for his physical section. Taking part in a drama production of Blood Brothers helped with his confidence and provided a new experience, but the expedition was the part he enjoyed the most. He said that Duke of Edinburgh Awards allow participants to “learn things in a different way – the best way.”

Maddie Ashton in Year 11 completed her volunteering section at a local vet’s, which gave her the responsibility of taking care of the animals before and after operations. For her physical sections at Bronze level, she joined the School’s Karate club and learned self-defence: this hobby has now become something she is very passionate about, and she continued with it for her Silver Award. For her skill, she focused on spring board diving, which she has been doing for the past eight years, and managed to complete her goal of perfecting a one and a half somersault dive. She fondly recalled her walking expeditions and said, “I’m glad I chose to take part in Silver and am looking forward to Gold next year.”

Daniyal Ashraf in Year 12 also shared his memories of his expedition, which he described as “hard, but one of the most enjoyable parts of school life.” He also spoke about volunteering at Bolton Hospice, where he learned the importance of small acts of kindness, and which helped to put things into perspective for him. He described being part of a group writing a play in German about a refugee for his skills section and the teamwork involved in playing rugby for his physical section. He said that the Silver Award has given him experiences to develop his skills and thanked the School for enabling him to continue with the Duke of Edinburgh Awards.

Khadijah Ali and Christopher Jacob in Year 13 spoke about completing the Gold Award, which includes an additional residential section. For this, they both signed up for NCS (National Citizen Service), which provides young people with the opportunity to improve their own skills through team-building outdoor pursuits, budget managing and courses, while also helping their local community by planning and implementing a social action project.

Khadijah’s NCS experience included project managing her group as they rejuvenated two local disadvantaged nurseries. For her expedition, she went sailing on board Tenacity, the ketch built by Bolton School pupils. She described this as a “unique experience” which helped to build resilience, teamwork and humour. She has also enjoyed being a Youth Leader at Bolton Lads and Girls Club, where she has acted as a mentor for young people. She said she was grateful to have persevered as the Awards have shaped her into a well-rounded individual: she highly recommended the “unforgettable” Gold Award experience.

Christopher spoke about the independent skills he built during his NCS residential and the First Aid course he was able to complete as part of this experience. He recalled how rewarding it was to reach the top of the hill during his walking expedition, but also the fun his group had getting lost and finding their way back to camp. He finished by also recommending the Gold Award, saying, “You won’t regret it.”

The Duke of Edinburgh Awards were then presented to all pupils. Girls accepted their Awards from Ms Bradford-Keegan, Ms Marrs (Girls’ Division Duke of Edinburgh Coordinator) and Mrs Entwistle (Community Action Coordinator), while boys received their Awards from Headmaster Mr Britton, Mr Davidson (Boys’ Division Head of Middle School) and Mr Chilton (Boys’ Division Duke of Edinburgh Coordinator).

Mr Britton brought the evening to a close with his address. He acknowledged the importance of Duke of Edinburgh Awards, which provide challenge and learning while engaged in activity as well as encouraging pupils to go beyond their comfort zone. He thanked the Boys’ and Girls’ Division members of staff who facilitate the Duke of Edinburgh Awards each year, and parents for their support. Finally, he commented that the School’s “compulsory approach to volunteering” enables whole year groups to complete the Bronze Award and creates an environment in which volunteering is seen as valuable. The proof of this can be seen in the number of pupils who progress from Bronze: a third to a half of pupils go on to complete their Silver Awards, and half of those also complete Gold Awards. He ended his address by noting that, because of this, Bolton School is foremost in the North West and notable nationally for the number of pupils completing Duke of Edinburgh Awards each year.

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