Duke Of Edinburgh Expedition Assessor Accreditation

orange square The Duke of Edinburgh award scheme was established in 1956 as a way for young people (14-24) to undertake a programme of activities designed to give them experience and knowledge of things they wouldn't ordinarily get to experience. The award looks great on a CV for future employers and along the way you will get the opportunity to make new friends and contribute to other people's lives.

dofe expedition

What has the DofE got to do with adventure? Each level of the award (Bronze, Silver and Gold, which are progressively more demanding) requires that participants to undertake an expedition. As part of a group, this involves planning, training, a practice event, a qualifying assessment, and a final presentation. The expedition itself should last:

Bronze: 2 days and 1 night | Silver: 3 days and 2 nights | Gold: 4 days and 3 nights

Expedition rules According to the DofE rules, the expedition participants choose must be completed using their own physical effort, so for example, not by car! They should be self sufficient along the way and not accompanied other than by the other expedition members (between four and seven people) who will also be completing the award scheme, and an adult who will be there to take responsibility for safety along the way. The chosen route should be continuous, so no breaks, and the trip should have an aim. This could be anything at all, for example, following an old Roman track way, or assessing the types of trees or birds spotted along the route.

The Gold level award requires a four day and three night expedition in "Wild Country". The award scheme has an exact definition of what counts as wild, but basically much of upland and lowland Scotland, including the Outer Hebrides. The Lakes, Pennines and Peak District of northern England, Exmoor and Dartmoor in Somerset and Devon. And much of Mid Wales and Snowdonia. In other words, areas that are largely void of human habitation, the idea is to be able to get from A to B, traveling through a difficult environment, without being able to pop into a shop to buy some food, or into a hotel for a night's sleep.

Adventure Companies To complete the expedition section of the Gold award participants need to work with one of the approved activity providers (AAPs) who all have experience of assessing and helping to coordinate the DofE scheme. The list of AAPs is very comprehensive and includes a number of the companies you will find in our directory. As well as providing the official assessment, these companies can assist with all the official paperwork and risk assessments, and with advice and training preparation. They can also save people taking part a packet by hiring out equipment such as tents and cooking facilities. They may even assist with final presentations. The level of involvement individuals wish the AAP to have is up to them, but with years of experience and expert activity leaders, by working closely with these companies they can gain more advice and expertise than going it alone.

Activity type The type of expedition undertaken is again entirely up to the individual. The simplest type of expedition is walking or hiking - simple in terms of not needing any specialist equipment. No matter how they decide to travel, they will require the right clothing and camping equipment, but beyond that they can get as technical as they wish. If they don't fancy walking they could opt for a bike or a horse, or could even take to water by canoe, or sailing boat. This gives lots of choice and makes the variety of expeditions available almost unlimited.

dofe expedition assessor

Becoming an Expedition Assessor Now we know a bit about what the DofE expedition involves, how can you get involved at assessor level? The Expedition Assessor Accreditation Scheme (EAAS) was established to provide a consistent means by which different groups could be assessed. To become accredited you need to complete a series of e-learning modules as well as a one day assessment course which covers the requirements and responsibilities of the role, and finally a supported assessment, where you will be judged on your performance.

As an assessor you will work alongside a Licensed Organisation, an Assessor Network or an Approved Activity Provider. Assessors are also split between Bronze/Silver and Gold, on account of Gold expeditions requiring groups to venture out into more remote terrain. Specific requirements in terms of your existing qualifications are more difficult to describe as the DofE do not make it consistent. Your physical location will determine which Operating Authority approves you. Unfortunately they all have their own ideas on how well qualified you should be for their own area. So while to be a Gold assessor in Birmingham may require you to have a BCU qualification to assess a canoe expedition, in London you may not need one. Helpful, but that's how they roll.

Our advice would be to look at what is perhaps the most relevant and best suited qualification, which would be the Basic Expedition Leadership Award (charmingly abbreviated as BELA). This award qualifies you to run expeditions in lowland areas and to organise overnight camps. The training alone for the Level 1 award takes more than a hundred hours and the assessment lasts a couple of days. It may not be a requirement for every Operating Authority, but some require at least Level 3, so it would be a great place to start on the road to becoming a DodE assessor.

To understand more about how exactly you can become a qualified assessor, we spoke to Georgina about how she got involved in the award scheme, her experience of going through the training scheme, and the best things about being a DofE expedition assessor.

Did you do the DofE award yourself at any level?

Georgina: No I didn't do DofE myself! A few of my friends did it and so did my sister. I wasn't particularly sporty when I was at school but I did enjoy going walking and roaming across the countryside. I think I would have benefited a lot if I had have done it though as it looks great on your CV and also gets you into the community doing lots of different activities.

OK, so what made you want to become an assessor?

Georgina: I was offered a job taking a school group on expedition in the Atlas mountains in Morocco. It seemed like a pretty ideal job but since this would be their qualifying I had to get my accredited assessor award to be be able to accompany the group. This first trip was a pretty amazing experience for me because I met my husband in Morocco and am still organising DofE assessments for the first school that I ever assessed for.

What was the one day training course like?

Georgina: The training course that I went to was held at a very grand private school in Essex. We spent most of the day looking at the 20 conditions of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, health and safety and DofE paperwork. Following the training day you have to shadow another assessor before you get the official sign off. For me this entailed shadowing a bronze group in Suffolk on a very chilly April weekend.

But you are glad that didn't put you off. So once you qualified, what is it actually like assessing an expedition, what do you look for?

Georgina: With the groups that I assess I always emphasize that it's not the whole team that I am passing it's the individuals in the team. I am looking to see that everybody is pulling their weight; taking turns with the navigation, putting the tent up, cooking good meals and is a good team member. It's also particularly important that teams stick to their route cards and arrive at the end of their legs on time and also leave their campsite as they found it.

And for you, what is the best thing about being an assessor?

Georgina: I get to visit some really lovely areas of countryside. Particularly on the gold expeditions you can find yourself in some really quiet and remote areas for example the Scottish Highlands, where you can just stay still and wait for your group to go by you. They might not even realise that you are watching them! Being an assessor also keeps you fit as you can sometimes take high mountainous routes to follow your group from a distance.

Aside from the environment, are there any perks to being an assessor?

Georgina: We got 20% discount in Cotswold Outdoors! I think the ultimate perk is getting to be outdoors all day and I have assessed groups in Morocco and Spain. It is always great to work somewhere warm and sunny. However when the weather is a bit chilly then if you have time in between meeting your groups in between check points you can always nip into the nearest cafe to warm up!

What are the benefits to being an assessor for DofE over being say a run or the mill Walking Group Leader?

Georgina: A WGL doesn't tend to take their groups in remote terrain whereas a DofE gold expedition has to take place in wild country. Having said that a DofE assessor should also hold the outdoor qualifications or experience appropriate to the environment that the group is going on expedition. For example if a group is going on expedition over 600m then their assessor should obtain the summer mountain leader. [Find out more about the Summer Mountain Leader Award]

Can we ask, have you ever failed an expedition?

Georgina: I'm not a mean assessor but I believe that all groups should be assessed to the same standards. I think that doing a DofE expedition is some much better than staying indoors playing computer games so the participants should take plenty of credit for simply getting out there. I haven't failed a group yet but I have deferred a silver group on their practice assessment, as they weren't quite up to standard with their navigation. Instead of finding their pathway they followed a busy main road and hoped that nobody would notice. Unfortunately I drove past them!

Do you take any luxuries on expeditions, or are you the type to snap your toothbrush in half to save a few grams?

Georgina: I don't like to carry too much but on the other hand I do like to eat well on expedition. I really like to take fresh fruit and veg with me because i know that the weight will decrease as the days go by. Also a good dinner is really important at the end of the day to keep your spirits up when the weather has been inclement. If I am assessing on my own then I might also take an ipod and a light book for the evening but an assessment is usually a good time to catch up on sleep!

Georgina Talfana is a freelance Gold DofE accredited assessor and also runs Berber Treks, which is an Approved Activity Provider for DofE in Morocco and Spain. Website: www.moroccotreks.co.uk Email: info@moroccotreks.co.uk Phone: 07738242619

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