The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, has died aged 99, just a few months away from his 100th birthday in June. As the nation looks back on his life, we thought it would be fitting to celebrate one of the Prince’s greatest legacies – the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE).
Set up in 1956, the scheme was established to encourage young people to gain essential skills, experience, confidence and resilience to successfully navigate adult life.
Designed by John Hunt (the man who led the first successful ascent of Mount Everest), the DofE Award looked to attract boys who had not yet embarked on national service. The first award was an immediate success, with over 7,000 boys enrolling, with a separate scheme for girls following shortly after in 1957.
The award requires participants to show volunteering, development and physical exercise skills with a focus on preparing for an expedition around the UK outdoor spaces.
“This is something that’s been essential for children from disadvantaged backgrounds”
Split into three different levels – bronze, silver and gold – the DofE scheme was something that gave young people the opportunity to take part in outdoor and adventurous activities, while giving back to local communities and charities. Young people do not require any previous experience before taking part in their first DofE Award.
This is something that’s been essential for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, usually in inner city areas. Opportunities to prepare for and take part in these expeditions – and most importantly, escape the pressures of the city – wouldn’t usually present themselves for these young people, but the DofE scheme has opened these essential experiences to all.
Since its founding, participation in the DofE schemes has grown every year. The award has since expanded to 144 nations – covering an age range of 14–24 year-olds – and has currently impacted over a million young people.
In the UK alone, there are currently more than 438,000 young people currently working towards their DofE awards (from gold, silver or bronze).
“I did the Gold DofE and was awarded it by Prince Philip himself at St James’ Palace,” said one former award scheme participant in a thread on the Wild Camping UK Facebook group. “When he came to our group he asked if any of us had parents who had also completed the award. I told him my father had, and he sought him out in the audience and shook his hand. A really special moment!”
“I’m a DofE instructor. Fair play to him for getting the Award going,” commented another user. “I’ve seen what it can do for young people first hand.”
Although the Prince might’ve sometimes attracted the headlines with his unfiltered quips, it’s clear that one of his greatest legacies is certainly the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, a scheme that looks set to help young people long after the Duke’s passing.