Tuesday, 8 October 2013

In defence

I was browsing blogs the other day, as you do, and came across a post about some young people that had been met whilst doing their Duke of Edinburgh expedition. Whilst the youngsters were admired, there were some issues and questions raised about their training and preparedness for expedition.

I do not know the blogger himself and felt a bit rude commenting directly on his post, but at the same time my feathers were a little ruffled and I felt a need to reply. I can of course only comment with regard my own Duke of Edinburgh area, each area tends to be run slightly differently, although the main training and guidance is the same.

Firstly, in Moray, Expedition Supervisors have completed Mountain Leader training (usually qualified) or Low Hills Award and Moray Award Supervisor training. Assessors will have completed Mountain Leader training (usually qualified) and Assessor training. Leaders also complete their relevant course but as they are not necessarily concerned with expeditions, they do not have to be Mountain Leader trained. As a Leader I have completed mine but also the Supervisors course so that I can assist on an expedition but not supervise alone. All supervisors, assessors and assistants will complete their Outdoor First Aid certificate.

Secondly, all participants must complete their Expedition and Navigation Training before each Award Level Practice Expedition. In Moray, this entails one practical training day at the local award centre in March where kit, first aid, nutrition, camp craft, route card and basic map reading skills, environment and country code and emergency routines are taught. A second day is spent in the local woods with map and compass learning navigation skills.

At our local Open Award Centre, we have found this slightly inadequate, there is a lot of information to be imparted in just a few hours and with at least a couple hundred young people not really giving their full attention, on their mobiles and chatting etc., so this year our local Open Award Centre ran separate training. One night a month for six months was devoted to the ‘soft skills’ and a day was spent in Culbin Forest practicing navigation, a bit of camp craft and emergency routines. This worked well and David and I have also taken two groups out separately to a different local estate to practice navigation further which they all appreciated and enjoyed. This new system was much improved and will be implemented again in the new season. (My Guide and Ranger groups got extra as I covered most areas at a few Guide meetings too.)

As to kit, they are recommended to buy/borrow the best they can afford with regard quality and weight, however, they do have a D of E kit list which they are expected to use. There are points I disagree with, but we go by the book. They are shown and advised how to pack and carry a rucksack, but if they chose not to do so, it’s up to them. The main point is it is Their expedition, Their adventure, Their choice and Their responsibility. We give remote supervision (unless otherwise required) and They do it Their way. They have to follow the route card and timings to a tee, that’s the safety net.

Ultimately, the young people learn from their mistakes, what hurts, how to get lost and find yourself, how to be safe, but with a grown up in the background just in case.

There is more to it that that, but anyone wanting to know more or get involved, this is the place to go. I got involved because I felt very strongly that I couldn’t criticise if I wasn’t prepared to help and share my own knowledge and experience, little though it is.

So there. And sorry for any offence caused!