Seven students from a special educational needs college in Lancaster have completed a gruelling four-day walking and camping challenge to complete the highly coveted Gold Duke of Edinburgh Expedition.
Four of the team have now completed their Gold Award following 18 months of hard work and ambition, which is considered an exceptional standard for any young person, particularly those with complex needs.
Pippa, Jadhaan, Liam, Marcus, Harry, Aaron and Natasha, who are the first students at the college to take part in the Gold level of the prestigious award, walked more than 26 kilometres and camped for three nights, organising themselves as a group to complete the award requirements.
The expedition had originally been planned for June, however had to be postponed and adjustments to the task made in order to comply with COVID restrictions.
Jadhaan and Liam put their cooking skills into practice and prepared the substantial evening meals for the team, assisted capably by Marcus and Harry on different evenings. Natasha had worked at planning the menu, coming up with lots of ideas of foods that would be expedition-friendly, including Pasta Bolognaise, Vegetable Noodles and Sausages and Mash with jelly and custard being a practical favourite.
Aaron and Marcus acted in support roles throughout, showing their caring and patient nature with others. Marcus was able to coordinate support as team members clambered over rugged terrain and boundary stiles.
Beaumont College is a national specialist college, providing education and training to its students aged 18 to 25 years. It has a residential base in Lancaster, where the team based their expedition campsite. Students have a range of complex needs, including physical disability, cerebral palsy and autism.
Rachel Diss, Occupational Therapist at Beaumont College, said: “It has been impressive watching these young achievers develop the skills required for all elements of the expedition section of the award, but also positive to see the committed staff support team backing off and empowering the team to start to rely solely on each other. This has been a gradual process of supporting their individual needs including; physical, social and emotional wellbeing whilst building their skills and confidence in themselves and their team.
“The rain on the first night of camping was absolutely torrential, but the team were determined to see it through and didn’t let a bit of rain deter them from carrying on. They were an inspiration. They knew it was the last opportunity they would have to achieve this as a team, and they weren’t letting anything stand in their way.
“Creating an environment of trust and learning opportunities to work as a successful team takes several months of planning and preparation, so it was wonderful to see it pay off. Members of the team have autism and learning disabilities and the support of their individual needs was key to ensuring they could all participate. As well as their learning needs, team members also had physical disabilities and challenges with carrying the required kit and covering the selected terrain and distance. They all had to commit to the challenge and work hard to get it finished together.”
Liam highlighted the team’s success and achievement with his comment “I am so impressed with how well everyone has done. Well done everybody!” made on the final day of expedition.
Aaron, Marcus, Natasha and Jadhaan have now completed all sections within the Gold Award and their teammates will complete their remaining sections by the end of the academic year.
Beaumont College of Further Education, provides a person-centred curriculum to young people with physical and learning disabilities. Its Duke of Edinburgh programme is among the first for students with this level of complex needs. It has presented its approach to the Royal College of Occupational Therapists, to inform other organisations about its use of the award to progress students’ independent skills.