Silver Duke of Edinburgh

Last week 37 Year 11 Wellington students successfully completed their Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Silver expedition. This involved walking a 43km route which took them from the outskirts of Bolton over the West Pennine moors to Darwen. The participants had to be self-sufficient so were carrying full kit which, as anyone with experience will confirm, is a game changer.

The Wellington community are always incredibly proud of our D of E groups. The sheer effort needed from the participants and the positive comments from locals about behaviour and politeness are, dare I say, the norm on our expeditions. This expedition was no exception and in fact it was even more remarkable. You see at the eleventh-hour Coronavirus had prevented this year group from experiencing their Bronze expedition. This was therefore their expedition debut plunging them straight in at the demanding Silver level. Furthermore, catching up on lost time during GCSE year meant it had to take place at an even more challenging time of year. As staff were all too aware, the impact of weather and the ever-shortening period of daylight so late in the season added further to the challenge.

As the groups approached camp on the first day a student described to me how they felt ‘the world was going to end’. I suspect this was a slight exaggeration, but it was a sentiment in line with many expressed by others reflecting the level of the Silver challenge. Of course, the world did not end for these groups of exhausted students. The first day did end though when soon after making camp the exertion and rain sent them off to sleep in record time! I have to say staff settled down soon after with a little trepidation over what day two would bring. We need not have feared. Dawn broke and it immediately became apparent how, preventing the world from ending on the day before, had given our participants an incredible boost for the second day. That evening our time in a very basic camp saw the group high spirited enjoying some good-natured fun.

Building resilience and a sense of community are key objectives of the late Duke’s genius award scheme. We saw this in truck loads as before our very eyes the participants went from strength to strength. The resilience they all built during the expedition crucially of course can be used again on the day, week, month, or year after or in fact at any time during their lives – what a gift. This is why the Wellington community invest so much time and effort into making sure as many of our students as possible can access this award scheme.

Massive thanks must go to Miss Challinor for making this expedition finally happen – third or fourth time lucky I think. Also, to Mr Ashfield and Miss Kelly who joined me along with staff from GRIP Adventures and volunteers from the Mountain Rescue Service on expedition. We all benefitted hugely from the generous sharing of methods and knowledge within the team and links were forged to ensure this will continue. Those new to working with us also got to experience the Wellington staff camp hospitality which they described as ‘a first’ in their experience. Thanks also to Mr Crooks for dropping some of our participants off and picking them up and to Mr Lane for his work behind the scenes restocking expedition gear.

Finally, an absolutely monumental WELL DONE to the Silver participants themselves. We are so proud of each and every one of you and you should be incredibly proud of yourselves. Wherever life takes you please never forget how to stop the world from ending when it feels like it might. You did it once and, you can do it again and again!

Mr Eckersley