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!


Alan Rayner said...

Hi Louise. Good post. I have followed your D of E endeavours and have been more than pleased with the way that it is carried out in your area.
I have also had a small involvement with gear advice, camping, tent positioning and cooking to a group in the midlands.
Unfortunately it seems that there is quite a large experience margin between supervisory groups around the country.
i have been shocked only this last year at the inept attitude of some of the supervision i have come across.
Lots of Dof E children are having their first taste of adventure but if preparation is poor then so will the experience. Making mistakes in the hills is fraught with danger. It seems to me many are thrown in at the deep end whether they can swim or not.
I can tell you many horror stories i have come across but enough is enough.
You keep up the good work and you don't need to apologise. You only cause offence to the guilty.

Louise said...

Thank you Alan.
I suspect that part of the problem may be that those with quality knowledge and experience don't volunteer to give help and guidance to these young people and it is left to the Scout or Guide Leaders (or whatever group) to try their best. D of E gives a great opportunity for personal development, aside from looking good on a CV. The expedition is really a small part of the award, it is however quite intense ('scuse the pun) and tends to be a bit rushed as there is a season for it which is relatively short, April till October (and up here we stop short to avoid cold nights and dodge midgies in the middle!). I think there needs to be more continuity of training but it is hard ti maintain when relying almost totally on volunteers and not professionals.

Mat said...

I would applaud Moray's approach: but I would say your approach is 50% of DofE these days.
Over the last four years working up here, I have met more and more ill-prepared groups, lacking in so many ways, and supervised by inadequately skilled and experienced adults. English groups travelling up (especially on water based trips, or end of year/October qualifying trips) seem to completely underestimate weather and size of lochs/glens/remoteness on a regular basis.
So many groups ship kit around, so that their group only carry the bare minimum each day. Many routes are not long enough, or have road sections galore.
And finally, groups seem to 'scrape through' - lacking skills they rely on bloodymindedness and the fact that it will be over in 2/3 days.
I personally had increased pressure to 'pass' more and more groups, to water down routes, to help groups more etc etc. I can see why so many 'give in'.
Sadly, I don't think central DofE see the scale of the issue.
For me it is such a shame - thousands of young people train hard, learn lots and apply themselves to truly challenging and adventurous trips, completed under their own effort and judgement. The poorer trips just devalue the award for everyone.

Louise said...

Thanks for your comment Mat, I need to give it some thought but I'm a bit busy at the moment, so I'll be back!