The Duke of Edinburgh Award is open to every member of the Air Cadet Organisation aged 14 or above and is a great way of learning new skills and qualities. Completing any level of the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme also looks great for prospective employers as it shows them that you’re willing to try new challenges and learn new skills.
The Duke of Edinburgh Award (DofE) has three different levels of participation each of which has different entry requirements and commitments to complete. Most people start at Bronze level and work up towards Gold, but it is possible to enter directly at the other levels of the Award if you meet the requirements. Details on each level can be found below.
As highlighted in the previous sections, there are a number of sections that you must complete to achieve your Duke of Edinburgh Award. Explore the tabs below for an insight into the requirements for each section and examples of activities you can complete in each section.
The Volunteering section of the DofE is all about helping others. The Volunteering section is aimed at giving time to help make a difference to other people’s lives. As a cadet you could choose an activity highlighted by the DofE Scheme or choose an activity that can be done on Squadron. The Volunteering section can be broken down into the following themes:
- Helping people
- Community action and raising awareness
- Coaching, teaching and leadership
- Working with the environment or animals
- Helping a charity or community organisation
Within each of these categories there are a number of different activities that you could choose to complete as part of your Volunteering section. Below are some examples of the kind of activity you can complete as an Air Cadet:
- Delivering training to younger cadets, such as history of the Air Training Corps as part of the First Class syllabus
- Running the Squadron canteen
- Running the Squadron stores
- Helping staff with the handling of paperwork and activity planning
When you have decided upon the activity you wish to undertake for your Volunteering section you will work with your Award Leader to set a specific goal and complete any training that is needed to complete this section. Once under way many cadets are surprised with how quickly this section is completed and are amazed at some of the new skills and qualities they learn from volunteering.
The aim of the Physical section is to allow you to achieve a higher level of physical fitness through the participation and improvement in a physical activity. Taking part in regular exercise will help you to feel healthier and allow you to have fun in sport at the same time. Don’t worry if you have not done much physical activity, this section is all about improving at something. There are many different physical activities for you to choose from, some of which are highlighted below:
- Team sports
- Individual sports
- Water sports
- Racquet sports
- Extreme sports
- Martial arts
Specifically within the Air Cadet Organisation you could undertake one of the following sports to fulfil your Physical section of the Award:
- Archery on Squadron
- Personal achievement through training for a fitness test
- Canoeing or kayaking
Once you have chosen your activity you will discuss with your DofE leader to discuss time-scales, objectives and identify the person who will track your progress through the Physical section.
The clue is in the title of this section. The skills section is all about learning a new skill based on your hobbies and interests. As an Air Cadet there are loads of different opportunities to learn many new skills. For this section you can choose an activity you are interested in or try something totally new. As part of the Skills section you will need to spend part of your time completing the training needed to complete the Skills section. Below is a list of categories that you can choose your Skill from:
- Creative arts
- Performance arts
- Care of animals
- Life skills
- Learning & collecting
- Media & Communications
- Natural world
- Science & technology
- Games & sports
Like other sections the Air Cadet Organisation offers a wide range of activities that can be used to complete the Skills section of the Award. Below are a few examples of what you can do to complete the Skills section:
- Aircraft recognition
- Creation of a Squadron website
- Production of a recruitment video
- Photographing Squadron events
Once you have chosen an activity your Leader will help you to identify a goal for the Skills section and identify an individual who will monitor and sign off your progress through the Skills section.
The Expedition section of the Award is the only section that you will complete with others. Whilst some cadets see this section as the most challenging, the Expedition section can give you some of the most amazing memories of your DofE Award.
As part of the preparation for your Expedition section you will be given training through the Air Cadet training syllabus on how to read a map, pack a rucksack and cook using a camping stove to name but a few. The first challenge however is pulling together a team and deciding on your mode of travel. Below are examples of the different modes of travel you can use:
- Horse riding
At each level of the award, you will need to complete at least one practice expedition, and one actual expedition. If you entering into the award at a level above Bronze you will need to complete 2 practice expeditions at that level.
Whatever the level of Award you are completing, your Expedition must have an aim. On completion of your Expedition you must present your experiences to your Leader or other cadets completing their DofE Award. At Bronze level your Expedition will be in local and familiar surroundings, but your Gold Expedition could take you as far as Iceland – the choice is yours!
When planning your Expedition you are responsible for every part of the section including the following:
- Route planning
- Food and menu’s
- Location of the expedition
- Carrying your own equipment
- Defining the objective of your expedition
For an expedition you need to work with between four and six other people to complete this section. Don’t worry if this sounds overwhelming as volunteers are on hand to guide you through every stage of training so that when it is time to undertake your expedition you are fully prepared.
The Gold level of the DofE Award works slightly different to previous Awards, in that there are 5 sections to complete instead of 4. The fifth section, the Residential section is aimed at getting your out and working with people you have never met before to meet a defined goal. You can complete this section at any time of the year and does not have to cost loads of money.
There are a number of different themes that your Residential section can follow, which are listed below:
- Service to others
- Environment and conservation
- Activity based
There is a lot of support available to help you plan your Residential section. Your DofE Leader may even be aware of different Residential opportunities that are available to you. As an Air Cadet you will be given many opportunities to go away from home with cadets who you do not know so provides an ideal setting to complete the Residential section.
Most cadets start the Duke of Edinburgh Award at the Bronze level once they reach their 14th birthday (or nearly 14 if there are friends of yours who are 14 and about to start the award). This enables you to work through the award with your friends of the same age.
The Bronze level of the DofE is made up of 4 sections that you must complete to receive your award. These are the Volunteering, Skills, Physical and Expedition sections. Each of these sections will take a minimum of 3 months to complete, except the Expedition section which consists of planning, training for and completing a 2 day (1 night) Expedition.
For the Bronze level of the Award you will need to choose which of the Volunteering, Skills and Physical sections you will complete for a further 3 months. The choice is yours and depends on what you are interested in completing as part of your Award and, although you can change your mind later, you should decide which section you want to do for 6 months at the beginning. Knowing how long you will be doing each section for will help you to chose the activities you want to complete and the goals for each section.
On completion of the Bronze Award you will be presented with a badge to be worn on your uniform and a certificate for your personal records.
On completion of the Bronze Award, the next step is the completion of the Silver Duke of Edinburgh Award. The activities that you choose at this level should build on and challenge you more than the activities you undertook at the Bronze level. To start the Silver level of the Award you must be 15 years old. If you have completed the Bronze Award however, you may start your Silver Award a month or two before your 15th birthday.
Like the Bronze level of the Award you must complete four sections of the Award. At this level however, you must spend at least 6 months Volunteering and a minimum of 6 months on either Physical or Skills section and 3 months on the other. It is totally your decision as to which section you choose to complete for the longer period. The Silver Award Expedition is also more challenging in that you must plan, train for and complete a 3 day (2 night) expedition in more remote terrain than you are used to.
If you have not completed the Bronze level of the award you will need to spend a further 6 months completing the Volunteering or whichever of the Physical or Skills sections you have spent the most time on. Although you can change your mind later, you should decide which section you want to do for longer at the beginning. Knowing how long you’re going to do it for will help you to choose your activity and set your goals for each section.
Again, like the Bronze Award, once you complete the Silver Award you will be given a Silver badge for your uniform and a certificate for your records. The Silver badge will replace the Bronze badge on your uniform (until you complete the Gold Award!).
When you reach your 16th birthday you can start on the Gold level of the DofE Award programme. Unlike Bronze and Silver levels no activities can be counted from before your 16th birthday. Like the Silver Award however, you can choose to develop the same activity as the previous level but you must be able to show a clear development on what you did at the previous level.
At the Gold level of the Award you will spend 12 months completing the Volunteering section and for the Physical and Skills you must spend 12 months on one and six months on the other – it’s up to you which section is the longer. As with previous Award levels your Expedition will increase in its challenge and will require you to spend four days and three nights (plus an acclimatisation day) in wild country.
The big difference at the Gold level of the Award is that you must complete a 5th section called the Residential section. This involves staying away from home for five days and four nights doing a shared activity with people you don’t know. It’s great fun and a real chance to do something different!
If you are a direct entrant on the Gold DofE programme you’ll need to do a further six months either Volunteering or whichever one of your Physical or Skills activities you spent the most time on.
Like all the previous award levels you will be awarded a badge for your uniform and a certificate. The completion of the Gold Award also means you will be given the opportunity to collect your Award from a dignitary at St James’ Palace in London.