The culmination of a four year journey proved to be a highlight in Meadowcroft schools history for students, staff and parents alike. A once in a lifetime opportunity to meet HRH The Earl of Wessex at St James Palace awaited our 8 Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award Winners.
The journey started in the summer of 2014, the year the Duke of Edinburgh award was introduced to the Meadowcroft Curriculum. As part of the award pupils were expected to complete a Physical, Skill and Voluntary section followed by an expedition. Over the next three years the pupils took part in a number of Outdoor and adventurous activities such as Climbing, Canoeing, Walking and Archery. This was the pupils chance to try new activities previously never tried before and hone their skills in areas of interest, for many this fulfilled the physical and skill components of the award. Some pupils chose to focus their attention on developing a new skill completely; personal interests such as learning a musical instrument or building a computer were areas chosen by some and were a fantastic success. Along the way pupils engaged in numerous voluntary experiences, such as litter picking, mentoring others at school and working as a teaching assistant in class. These experiences helped the pupils to grow and demonstrate a level of maturity previously unseen.
One of the most challenging elements of the Award were the expeditions, for each expedition pupils had to take part in a practice before completing the trip under assessed conditions. Each expedition brought its own barriers and obstacles that the pupils had to deal with, The Duke of Edinburgh Award is about pushing oneself out of your comfort zone and with this trip the pupils certainly did. The Gold expedition proved to be a real highlight for not only the pupils but the staff that accompanied them. The expedition team canoed over 5 days across Scotland on what is the fastest flowing river in Britain ‘The Spey’. Along the way the group would make camp, set up their tents and cook their meals, although at times they needed some encouragement the pupils pulled together and worked as a team.
Upon completing the trip-
Megan- ‘It were fun, I loved being with the team. It felt like a family!!’
Jack- ‘It’s been difficult, but it’s a great achievement. We’ve come a long way….. err like 50 Miles!! We had a few bumpy parts of the trip but we pushed through it. Food wasn’t great, the food was terrible!! It’s been an amazing time, when Im a bit older I can look back at this time and be proud of what I have achieved.’
And finally the trip to London, after waiting nearly 2 years we finally received a date for the Palace. Sadly only 7 of the 8 could attend, but along with family and staff the group travelled via train down for the big day. The train ride became a nostalgic trip down memory lane; countless tales were regaled from the numerous adventures that the group had shared together. It was a lovely atmosphere and a pleasure to be a part of. Once we arrived in London the mood of the group was one of excitement and anticipation, for many this was their first trip to London and the hustle and bustle of the busy streets capture their imagination and wonder. Taylor asked, ‘Is it like this all the time?’ ‘ I love it!!’.
And so to the ceremony, the pupils were situated in the Throne room, along with other Gold award recipients that anxiously waited for the arrival of The Earl. The Earl made his way around the room, questioning not only the young people but members of family and staff that accompanied them that day. It was an opportunity for the young people to be in the limelight and speak directly about their experiences. For some this was a little daunting but in the case of Jack this was his time to shine. Jack managed to capture not only HRH the Earl but the whole room, talking of the experiences he had gained through the Award. Once The Earl had completed his part of the ceremony he left to greet other groups situated throughout the palace. It was left to Justine Gosling to present the young people with their award. Justine Gosling is an inspirational figure, she is a NHS physiotherapist who has undertaken expeditions to provide emergency aid in war torn parts of the world.
As the Duke of Edinburgh Lead for Meadowcroft, this is the greatest achievement of my professional career. To take a group of some of the most disadvantaged children all of whom have significant behaviour and learning needs to St James Palace is something I will never forget. I still think about the day we finished in Scotland, it fills me with pride and joy to think of what we achieve as a team. The hard work starts now; we currently have four young people completing their Silver award this academic year, my hope is that this unbelievable achievement may be replicated once again.