Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award (DofE) students from Ark William Parker Academy, finally got to test themselves and their training on a practice weekend expedition.
After months of training, planning and preparation, the Year 10 students arrived on Saturday morning at the assessment centre in Cranbrook. Tents were quickly distributed and once equipment was stowed away, in their already full rucksacks, they began their walk at 8.30am.
Nick Burchell leader at the academy for the Duke of Edinburgh programme said: “There was a sense of anticipation as our students began their expedition. Participants must carry considerable weight while trying to navigate around the countryside to various checkpoints and many brought more than they needed. Practice weekend is exactly as it says on the tin and this ramps up the pressure and fear of failure.”
Saturday proved a challenge for all teams, walking for more than six hours in sunshine, rain and hail. Checkpoints were eventually found, though it took a little longer to reach them than initially planned – a combination of poor route cards, lack of confidence in their map reading skills, the weather and the idea that short cuts would be a good idea! Students were visibly relieved when they reached each checkpoint and saw the smiling faces of the staff.
Saturday evening gave the students their first opportunity to cook a nourishing meal on trangia cookers, under the watchful eyes of the staff, then, time for bed.
It was an early start on Sunday morning with students meeting with Mr Burchell during breakfast and leaving the campsite by 8am. The sun was up and the heat began to syphon the strength from the already weary students. Having spent a long day on the Saturday the students spent more time analysing their routes, which paid dividends through the day with all checkpoints found within the timescales set.
The expedition ended at Bodiam, where parents were waiting to collect their children, and there was an air of hope as the students waited to hear Mr Burchell give his final summing up of the weekend. More importantly, they wanted to hear the verdict as to whether they could do the assessment phase in the next few months.
Mr Burchell expressed how delighted he was with their achievement and told them they were indeed ready for the assessment phase. He went on to say: “I was proud to see the boys in action during the weekend. They walked over 28km over two days, developing their skills in orienteering, applying the Country Code and road safety. They worked together as a team, putting up tents and cooking.
“This is a marvellous programme which has a positive impact on young people in school and, more importantly, gives them skills for the rest of their lives.”
He also pointed out that this group of students would be making history, as they will be the last group going through the award as William Parker students, as next year the school will be Ark Alexandra Academy.