On 11th March, HRH The Earl of Wessex visited Withywood in Bristol to meet with Merchants’ Academy students who are doing their Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE). 70 DofE participants were delighted to welcome The Earl and share with him their experiences of the DofE.
The visit was planned to thank local schools and organisations that run the DofE for their young people and showcase how doing the DofE could benefit more young people, schools, business and youth organisations in the area.
Upon arrival at Merchants’ Academy, the Ultimate Frisbee team, coached by ex-GB U20 player Ben Hall, put on an exhilarating display before speaking with The Earl about this Physical section of the DofE.
The Earl then joined older students in the library who, as part of the Volunteering section, were supporting younger students through the new reading mentor scheme.
Attendees, including the Lord-Lieutenant Peaches Golding OBE; David Watson OBE, CEO of Venturers Trust; Ruth Marvel, CEO of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award; as well as senior representatives from the Society of Merchant Venturers and the University of Bristol, enjoyed lunch prepared by DofE participants fulfilling the Skills section of their DofE, alongside pupils studying Food Technology. All produce had been sourced within 10 miles of the Academy.
To end the visit, Silver DofE participants Vanessa and Fendi, gave a short presentation about a film they are making as part of the Skills section. They explained how the film project has given them an important opportunity to challenge negative stereotypes of young people from Withywood, Hartcliffe and other deprived areas of South Bristol.
DofE Manager, Jonathan Crouch, who is a science teacher at Merchants’ Academy, has been involved in the programme for eight years and has led expedition teams for young people across Dartmoor, Exmoor, the Mendips and Brecon Beacons. He said: “It was a privilege to welcome The Earl to Merchants’ Academy today and to celebrate the incredible hard work and success of our DofE participants. The programme provides young people with valuable, transferable skills that sit alongside their academic qualifications, as well as boosting their confidence and giving them access to new opportunities and experiences. In the past year, the number of Merchants’ Academy students taking up the DofE has risen from 45 to 70 and we hope that The Earl’s visit today will encourage even more young people to take part.”
Travis Grainger, a Y10 DofE participant from Merchants’ Academy said: “It was exciting to meet a Member of the Royal Family in school today. The Earl was really interested in our Ultimate Frisbee demonstration and asked us lots of questions about what we like most about the DofE and what we’re looking forward to doing next.”
The Earl also heard about how Licensed Organisations are using funding from the #iwill Fund, through the DofE’s Diamond Fund, to expand their DofE offering. The #iwill Fund is made possible thanks to a £50 million joint investment from The National Lottery Community Fund and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to support young people to access high quality social action opportunities.
Heather Thompson, Director South West at The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, said: “Doing the DofE takes young people out of their comfort zone and supports them in building a vital set of skills for life and work, such as confidence, resilience and communication, as well as providing the foundations for life-long friendships.
Merchants’ Academy has used funding from the #iwill Fund, through the DofE Diamond fund, to enable more disadvantaged young people in their local area to do their DofE and support our aim for the DofE to be accessible to any young person, regardless of their background or circumstances.”