Highgate’s largest ever group of Gold D of E pupils have met HRH Prince Edward, and actor Andy Serkis, at a Buckingham Palace ceremony to recognise their hard work.
Mr Blackshaw, Highgate’s Director of Outdoor Education, explains: ‘Gold is the highest level that can be achieved on the Duke of Edinburgh scheme and subsequently requires the longest time commitment. Pupils must carry out their chosen activities (volunteering, a skill and a physical activity) for a minimum of 12 months, as well as organising a week-long residential in an unfamiliar setting with new people. Many of our pupils choose to go on courses to learn and develop new skills or attend language schools, in the UK or abroad.
‘As well as this, the expedition section for the Gold award is significantly harder than those undertaken at Bronze and Silver. Highgate pupils carry out a two-night, three-day practice expedition to Snowdonia at Easter, and a three-night, four-day qualifying expedition to the Lake District in July. On both expeditions, pupils plan their own routes and are totally self sufficient in terms of their food, equipment and navigating their chosen routes.’
On successful completion of the Gold award, pupils are invited to a presentation ceremony at Buckingham Palace where they meet a member of the Royal Family and receive their award from a celebrity presenter. This year saw a record seven Highgate pupils talk with HRH Prince Edward about their D of E experience, then receive their individual certificates from actor and film director, Andy Serkis.
Mr Blackshaw adds: ‘The Palace ceremony was a wonderful occasion, described by one pupil as “surreal”. And we hope to attend future Buckingham Palace presentations, since Highgate continues to have ever increasing numbers of pupils enrolling on, and completing, D of E. At Gold level, we currently have 56 pupils signed up – our largest ever cohort!’