The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award: Promoting the Leadership Potential of ALL Learners

At many schools, faculty see the same students stepping up for all leadership and award opportunities; these may be the students’ council members, the Model UN participants, and/or the student mentors. While it is a pleasure to cultivate leadership skills in those young people who already have an interest in going “above and beyond,” repeatedly focusing on the same high-achievers excludes the vast majority of a student body.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award is uniquely accessible to those who may feel intimidated by traditional student leadership clubs. This award programme appeals to those quieter students who may just need a bit of extra guidance to step up and take on new roles in the community, or to join a new club or team. By participating in the Award under the guidance of an Award Coordinator and four different Assessors, these students unlock their leadership potential and discover the rewards of making new connections and developing new talents.


The Award programme is entirely non-competitive, meaning that participants work at their own pace. The aim of the Award is to develop the whole person – mindbody and soul. The programme focuses on four main areas of development: fitness, skill, service, and outdoor exploration. Students can develop their own set of programme goals, depending on their interests and skills. The self-directed and self-paced nature of the Award makes it particularly appealing to those who shy away from collaborative group activities.


Not only does the Award provide students aged 14-24 with invaluable opportunities for personal growth, it is also a prestigious and internationally-recognized distinction that can be an impressive asset on post-secondary applications, scholarships, CVs and resumes.


What Does the Award “Teach?”


While the benefits of the Award are as varied as participants’ own experiences with it, these three leadership skills are developed in all participants:



In order to earn the Award, participants must meet their targets in the various Award areas. Not only do they set their sights on the long-term goals of section completion, but they also work with their mentors, coaches, and Award coordinators to establish smaller goals within each section and to ensure that these are measureable, achievable, and supported. Participants learn the value of working toward a goal, see the importance of remaining accountable to a leader, and experience the immense feeling of achievement that comes with goal attainment. Setting and achieving goals in this context helps give young people the skills they need to stretch themselves and to achieve their dreams.



Award participants must seek out “Assessors.” These figures act as motivating leaders, who support every step of a participant’s journey in a particular Award section. A student who wishes to learn knitting, for example, might find a teacher or a community member who excels in this area and would approach this person for mentorship and coaching. Building relationships with assessors helps young people to connect to people in leadership roles, and helps them to feel supported and motivated by the larger school or local community.



The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award prides itself on being a “marathon and not a sprint.” This means that participants are required to dedicate themselves to the program for a sustained period (six months at minimum) and to show regular and committed engagement. In this fast-paced world, students often balk at the idea of sticking with a task or activity for months at a time, but after achieving their goal, they recognize the immense value of persistence and dedication to a long-term project. Appreciating the importance of a sustained commitment can help these young people to be successful future leaders and professionals.


After completing their Awards, students who once balked at joining a school club or felt nervous to step up for a leadership opportunity within the school now appreciate their own potential for achievement. Through their work on the Award, they have become stronger (mentally and physically), made numerous connections in the community, and have acquired and developed new skills. They are thus ready to move forward in life with newfound confidence and leadership potential.


School-Wide Implementation of the Award:

Strategies for Success from Fieldstone King’s College School


For years, Fieldstone school struggled to garner student interest in the Award programme. Duke of Ed was seen as one of many “extra” groups/clubs on campus by both faculty and students, and very few students showed any interest in registering.


In 2012, as we revisited our school’s unique vision and mission, we realized that we shared numerous values and mandates with the Award organization. We began to look at ways to bring the Award to the centre of our school programme.


This year, we celebrate twenty award achievers at Fieldstone. Our participant numbers grow every year, and we are seen as a regional leader in programme delivery.


How did we achieve this? There are five aspects of our Award programme that have helped us achieve outstanding growth and programme success:

  • Duke of Ed is a recognized and valued aspect of school culture.

Facilitating a successful Duke of Edinburgh’s Award programme is integral to fulfilling our mandate of preparing future global leaders. Thus, the Award is not seen as a marginalized “extra” within a plethora of co-curricular programmes. Rather, it is seen as the backbone of our school culture. Students and staff recognize the Award as epitomizing our shared values as a school.

  • A Coordinator oversees the programme and keeps all parties accountable.

While the leadership of individual Award Assessors is important, having a centralized system throughwhich students’ progress is monitored is an essential element of our programme. A strong coordinator ensures that participants and assessors stay on top of deadlines and Award requirements, and that these parties receive adequate support and recognition for doing so.

  • Explicit connections between hobbies and co-curricular opportunities are made apparent to students.

Students are encouraged to find skills, service, and fitness opportunities right here at school. This helps build a thriving co-curricular programme, and enables participants to connect to teachers as mentors and coaches, enriching their relationships with these authority figures. Furthermore, the “expedition” part of the Award is facilitated through our annual Camp retreat, helping students and staff to bond, as participants complete a lengthy hiking and tenting adventure with the support of teacher leaders.

  • Student achievement is advertised and celebrated.

To motivate young people and to keep the Award at the forefront of their busy schedules, Award participants are recognized and celebrated both informally- with regular praise and encouragement from teachers, assessors, and the coordinator, and formally- through announcements, hallway displays, and assemblies. This not only motivates participants to stay on track, but it also encourages other students to join the programme.

  • Students view the programme as integral to their postsecondary transition.

With explicit links between the Ministry-managed Creating Pathways to Success programme and the Duke of Ed Award, students see the Award as a valuable aspect of a successful transition to postsecondary life. Students recognize that the Award itself speaks volumes on a postsecondary application. Importantly, however, they also appreciate that the connections and skills developed through the programme will be of immense value as they transition to postsecondary life.

Fieldstone believes that the Duke of Ed Award is an invaluable tool for promoting global leadership. For more information on effective programme delivery, feel free to contact Stephanie Long- Vice Principal and Award Coordinator- at

June 18, 2018

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About Fieldstone

Our mission at Fieldstone King’s College School (grades 9 to 12) is to provide a stimulating and enriching academic curriculum within a caring and supportive learning environment.
As a ministry-inspected institution, Fieldstone delivers Ontario secondary school courses in a manner consistent with the curriculum expectations and assessment/evaluation techniques used throughout the province. We also offer preparation for Cambridge exams, allowing our students exceptional academic enrichment should they wish for a challenge beyond the Ontario curriculum.

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