Special school students gain Duke of Edinburgh expedition award

Ivel Valley students complete Duke of Edinburgh Award
Ivel Valley students complete Duke of Edinburgh Award

Intrepid students from a Biggleswade special school have yomped their way towards success in a prestigious youth achievement award scheme.

A group of Ivel Valley School pupils aged between 16 and 18 - who have a range of special needs and disabilities (SEND) - took part in an overnight hike and camping trip and passed the gruelling ‘Expedition’ section of the Bronze Duke Of Edinburgh Award.

Lynn Hawkins, class teacher and DofE countryside leader at the school, said: “Our pupils walked 15k [9.3 miles] from the school to Henlow Bridge Lakes, camped out for the night, and made the tough return trip the next day, all in cold and rainy weather.

“They had to plan the whole thing, learn first aid, map-read, cross roads and a railway line, carry their kit including tents, set up camp, and cook their meals - all independently.

“We practised and trained hard in advance, but on the two days it was all up to them, and we weren’t allowed to help them or tell them what to do. They worked tremendously hard and truly supported each other both physically and mentally. Some of them had never even slept away from their own bed, so being brave enough to undertaking such a tough

expedition - and not only complete it, but to pass all the requirements they needed to - is a fantastic achievement. No allowances were made - they had to do everything a team

without disabilities would have had to do, so it’s even more impressive.”

Kathryn Hall, independent DofE Assessor, said: “This wasn’t an ‘easier’ version of the expedition - it doesn’t work like that. What struck me was how well they worked as a team, helping each other all the way. They did amazingly well and I was very pleased to tell them they had passed.”

In addition to the Expedition section of the award, the students have been completing their Volunteering, Physical and Skills elements. Activities completed included decorating and gardening at Ivel Valley School’s lodge house; learning how to play and score golf; passing a Level 2 Bikeability Award; learning to maintain and repair cycles; and helping younger Ivel Valley nursery, reception and Year 1 pupils with reading and daily activities.

Audrey Webb, deputy head, said: “These are our first students ever to take part in the award, and we’re immensely proud of both them and the members of staff who have worked so closely with them, and giving up their time to help and encourage them.

“It has taken nearly two years and they have put in a huge amount of effort into completing their Bronze Award.”

Ivel Valley became an accredited Duke of Edinburgh Licensed Centre in September 2014.

Following the success of its first Bronze award students, it hopes more pupils can take on DofE challenges in the future.