The DofE scheme is a major part of the school’s co-curricular offering, with well over 300 students working toward Bronze, Silver or Gold awards.

Our students have not allowed the current health emergency to dampen their spirits – with 166 signing up this year at all 3 levels, the highest number of awards started at any centre in Somerset. 13 participants from Taunton School have already completed awards since the beginning of 2021, and I look forward to more over the coming months.

In order to gain the award, students need to take part in four challenges. They need to develop a skill, work on their physical well-being and volunteer; as well as taking part in a self sufficient expedition. The current situation has had an obvious impact on their ability to complete these challenges – but, as always, the students of Taunton School have not let this stand in their way and continue to work toward their awards. We are lucky, our overall co-curricular offer allows students to work toward their challenges and this remains the case while we are online: virtual sports sessions, virtual CCF activities, continued musical instrument lessons and concerts, online debating and other clubs all allow the pupils to continue working toward their awards.

To support their volunteering challenges, Taunton School pupils are doing things such as helping to renovate gardens, supporting pupils (including those from other schools) with their online school work, supporting neighbours that are shielding and supporting local communities for example with litter picks or renovating community spaces. There is no doubt in my mind that TS pupils are making a positive impact during these difficult times and I applaud them for it.

We have been able to take expeditions out already this year and hope that we will be able to do so again later in the year if restrictions allow. The DofE awarding bodies have created a new certificate of achievement so participants can still get recognition even if they are unable to complete this part of the award. Even lockdown, however, has not stopped our pupils from preparing for their hoped for expeditions – with online learning, quizzes about maps and practical navigation tasks being undertaken by many.

The DofE award has been designed to encourage young people to try new things, to move out of their comfort zones and to help them recognise the importance of service to others – perhaps it is now, more than ever before, that the scheme is needed the most. I am so pleased that so many Taunton School pupils continue to take up the challenge.

Philip Edwards, DofE Coordinator