29 March 2023
This term, pupils from Berkhamsted Girls, Boys and Sixth were fortunate enough to meet with His Royal Highness Prince Edward, Duke of Edinburgh, at Ashridge House. Berkhamsted pupils were kindly invited to join local dignitaries, pupils from Little Gaddesden Primary School and Ashridge Staff to celebrate the planting of a memorial tree by His Royal Highness in honour of his mother, HM Queen Elizabeth II and father, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. As part of this visit, twenty-seven pupils who are all involved with The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (D of E) at various stages spoke with The Duke to talk about their experiences of it.
Berkhamsted School has a long-running association with the Award, it having run at the Girls School since 1957 and the Boys School since 1958. The meeting with The Duke, who is one of the Trustees of the Award, proved an excellent opportunity to celebrate this. In addition, it allowed pupils to reflect on their involvement with the Award so far, and discuss this with The Duke. With groups from the Bronze, Silver and Gold stages of the Award all attending, it was a highly memorable and meaningful afternoon.
Anticipation was high amongst pupils as they waited for His Royal Highness’s arrival in the library of a snow-covered Ashridge House. Oscar, Thomas, James and Daniel (Year 9 and doing their Bronze Awards) were excited about the day and the Duke’s visit. As James pointed out, “it’s not an opportunity you get to experience much of the time!” Oscar thought the day was “a good chance for The Duke to hear about what people are doing in their D of E”. Daniel was equally keen “to share with The Duke what I have done in the award so far.”
After His Royal Highness had arrived at Ashridge and planted the memorial tree, he moved to the library to meet with the pupils. The Duke, accompanied by the Lord-Lieutenant of Hertfordshire, Robert Voss CBE CStJ, spoke in turn to pupils doing their Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards respectively. The pupils made good use of the opportunity to tell The Duke about the experiences they have gained from D of E so far, the new skills they have learned, the volunteering and charitable work they have completed, as well as where they have been and are going on their Expeditions.
Alex and Hannah (Year 12), currently undertaking their Gold Awards, spoke with His Royal Highness about Berkhamsted’s long-standing association with the Award. They used a display of different documents and photographs from the school archive to help them with this, including a photo of His Late Royal Highness Prince Philip on his visit to the school in 1959. The Duke was particularly interested to hear about the early link between Berkhamsted’s Combined Cadet Force and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in the 1950s.
Once The Duke had said goodbye to the group and moved on to his next appointment, Berkhamsted pupils and staff posed for a group photo on Ashridge House’s magnificent staircase before enjoying a delicious buffet lunch. The pupils remarked how friendly and easy to talk to The Duke was, as well as how valuable it was to reflect on what they have achieved in the D of E journeys so far.
In The Duke’s conversations with pupils, it was striking to hear the range of activities they are undertaking as part of their Physical, Volunteering and Skills sections. Everything from chess to photography, online cookery courses to netball, and volunteering at local charities and Cub groups were mentioned. This was a clear indication of the range of opportunities the Award gives pupils and the experiences it can encourage them to become involved in.
Pupils were also swift to identify the ways in which participating in D of E is building skills that they can use not only within their school lives, but in life beyond too. Remi (Year 10), who is undertaking her Silver Award, spoke about how taking part had helped her to develop new friendships as well as her leadership skills. Amelia mentioned how the award is something which will really boost her CV. Pupils spoke about how providing evidence to show how they have completed the different sections of D of E has helped their organisation skills, while experiences volunteering and out on expeditions has developed their sense of independence.
Meeting His Royal Highness, The Duke of Edinburgh provided the pupils with a memorable experience and an excellent opportunity to reflect on their D of E journeys so far. It also highlighted the immense value of the Award and the positive effects that it has; taking part allows those who participate to not only have a wide range of impactful, significant experiences, but also develops skills that they can use throughout their lives. For Berkhamsted pupils, to be able to discuss this with the Duke was real cause for celebration.
Many thanks to the team at Ashridge House for providing Berkhamsted students with the opportunity to be involved in such a memorable afternoon.