DofE - how do you do it?

We’ve been experimenting with DofE for some years now - but without as much success as other units around us. So we’re considering a change of attack to try and get higher achievement rates amongst the cadets - and better progression in what is a very valuable award (more so than Junior Leaders interms of it’s recognition by employers!).

But it got me thinking, how do these other units do it?

We know that some build their training program around DofE - certainly doing physical & skills within their parade night training, then laying on 6-8 weekends per year for expedition training, practice expeds and final expeds. They also incorporate “volunteering” by mentoring junior cadets, being an NCO or whatever. They get around 20 bronze awards per year doing this route.

The other school is outlining to the cadets the DofE requirements, setting aims and objectves, then ongoing monitoring of the cadets with encouragement as required. Rely on cadets to organise the Expeds themselves, or to use Wing Expeds to get the cadets through. They get around 2 or 3 awards with this route.

Is there a happy medium?

I know a lot of people are of the school that DofE is something extra that the cadets should have to work to achieve. Others believe that cadets give enough through the ATC that some of their activities should count for this additional award - and I suppose which camp you come from will determine which model you adopt on squadron.

Personally I’m keen to support Bronze to help then gain that initial achievement, then give Silver less support, and Gold minimal support…

Just interested to hear other peoples experiences, challenges and share a bit of good (and bad!) practice!!!

I’ll be back!

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On one of the squadrons I was on as a cadet, entire nights were dedicated to being “DofE Nights”. The whole DF broke down into their groups and planned routes, equipment, food etc. This was done for Bronze and Silver levels as I don’t think they had anyone ready to complete Gold at the time.

I’m now on a squadron where my members of staff that deal with DofE take the opposite approach. They don’t push people at all and expect cadets to make the first move. Whilst this may make them value the award more in the short term, it leads to very very poor levels of achievement!

Others believe that cadets give enough through the ATC that some of their activities should count for this additional award.

Firstly I am totally of this school of thought! If the DofE Participant is already doing something above that of their friends then why not use this to their advantage? There is a very good reason why the ATC activities work so well with the various levels of the DofE!

For those that don’t know I’ve significant experience in running DofE both within the ATC and as part of my day job working for one of the biggest AAPs.

In terms of recognition by employers and higher education establishments there is an interesting article in tes HERE

But it got me thinking, how do these other units do it?

I’ve approached my answer based on the four (five at Gold Level) Sections of the DofE and how I see they “best fit” within ATC Squadron “life”. I’ve kept my answer limited to activities MOST units have access to! Of course the participant may choose other activities!


This section is about developing participant’s personal interests of which the ATC is one! It is also in my opinion the easiest section for a participant to complete due to the fact that as part of our classification training syllabus we offer lessons in Aeronautics! If the participant decides that is the skill they want to use then I’d suggest it fits nicely like this (remembering the timescales for the levels!)

[li]Bronze Level – Leading Cadet[/li]
[li]Silver Level – Senior Cadet[/li]
[li]Gold Level – Master Air Cadet[/li]

In addition to Aeronautics there is a huge array of activities we do as part of routine Squadron activities which will satisfy the needs of the skills section

Examples are:
[li]Ceremonial Drill[/li]
[li]Rocket Making[/li]
[li]Playing in a Band[/li]
[li]Aircraft Recognition[/li]
So in summary the skill section is very simple to achieve with minimal alteration to your training programme (assuming you’re an active Sqn!).


This is the section that is about giving time to “help people, the community or society, the environment or animals.” For participants within the ATC it’s always the section I find the most tricky to facilitate for a large number of participants.

Volunteering Activities come under the following sections:
[li]Helping People[/li]
[li]Community action & raising awareness[/li]
[li]Working with the environment or animals[/li]
[li]Helping a charity or community organisation[/li]
[li]Coaching, teaching and leadership[/li]
Within the coaching, teaching and leadership section is the heading “Leading a voluntary organisation group” and the subheading “Air Training Corps”. It is clear that as an NCO within the ATC that you would probably be asked to lead a group, be that a flight within a Squadron, the Supply team, perhaps even the team of cadets tasked with running the canteen. All of these are valid volunteering activities and would count for the participant leading the team! These are all suitable, I would suggest for Silver & Gold participants!

In addition for those Silver & Gold Participants who are NCOs they may want to consider “DofE Leadership” as their chosen volunteering activity with suggested activities as helping other participants complete eDofE, running the skills section, if they’re teaching one of the activities listed in the section on skills etc.

The time consuming part comes when you have a large Squadron with 20+ Bronze participants because it’s clear that not all 20 can run the canteen for 3 months! There are a few ways you can approach this as a leader

Option 1. Get all your participants to seek Volunteering outside of the ATC. They could be doing activities such as helping at the local old people’s home, in a charity shop, at the local pet rescue centre. These are all valid activities and the participants will enjoy them I’m sure but IMHO as a DofE leader on a Sqn it’s difficult to get assessors reports back along with good evidence for eDofE, particularly from Bronze participants!

Option 2. Innovate! If you’re an active Squadron then you’re probably doing something which could, with a tweak satisfy the requirements of this section. You’re probably involved in a community project or helping the service charities. The definitive list of volunteering activities is HERE

On my unit we’ve taken over the maintenance of the local war graves and during the summer months we clean them, inform CWGC of any damaged ones and we’ve started this last year to photograph them. Other Squadrons have affiliations with a number of service charities and hold regular collections throughout the year to fit within the volunteering section (remember the collections don’t all need to be for one charity!!)

So for example the participants could collect for RAFA in September & October and RBL in November! If they were doing Volunteering for 3 months at Bronze Level!

I think if you can get engaged with a local project, or establish a new one then you have a sure-fire way of offering a volunteering opportunity and doing something worthwhile for your entire Squadron! That’s why we did!!

In addition to bigger projects some other options I’ve used are:
Promotion & PR. Helping to run the website and/or social media streams to advertise the Sqn
Administration. Assisting Sqn Adj with their duties.
Music Tuition. Teaching in the Sqn Band.


Is basically a sport or fitness activity that the participant needs to undertake for the required period of time. Pretty simple to facilitate IMHO and participants usually fall into two categories

[li]Those that play sport only at school[/li]
[li]Those that are part of a sporting team/club[/li]

Category two is the easiest to facilitate as the Sqn DofE Officer as your participants are probably doing sport regularly enough outside of school time to count that as their physical section! Getting their assessors report back can sometimes be a bit of a pain though but the full list of permitted activities is HERE

Those cadets who only do sport as part of PE or during their time on Squadron will require some further help in getting them through this section. You can of course run the “physical achievement” activity over a period of time and that would suffice. Just pencil in enough sessions into your programme and make sure the participants turn up! I’ve done this for years and TBH it has become stale so I’ve thought about some ideas which would fit into a Squadron training programme but do rely on qualified staff.

[li]Archery – I hear you’re getting some staff qualified soon![/li]
[li]Canoeing – If you’ve qualified staff. IRC you should be looking at working towards the next star level on the BCU syllabus![/li]
[li]Climbing – Learning the required techniques (perhaps through the NICAS scheme – two birds one stone and all that![/li]
[li]Orienteering – Improving your navigation and fitness on a number of courses![/li]


The section that (wrongly?) gets the most focus for DofE within the ATC and does rely on you having access to the relevant qualified staff (BEL, ML(S), WGL). I’ve been running expeditions for 10+ years and this model is my “blue-sky” suggestion

Training can be included as a bolt on to Basic Nav at leading level building on IET but I’d suggest a two day training weekend at Sqn working on all aspects of the DofE’s Expedition Framework for the relevant level with a day of route planning between the practice and qualifying expeditions. Another option to consider is finishing your practice expedition at YHA (or similar) and using a classroom there the next day for route planning!

Bronze Level. Expeditions run at Sqn level by BEL qualified staff for all eligible candidates. Will take no more than 4 expeds spread throughout the year with 2 or 3 BEL Staff.

Silver Level. Either run at Sqn or sector level pooling the qualified staff with support from the Wing AT Team, most Sqns will probably have 2-3 teams at the most for silver. Pooling helps support smaller units who would only have 2 – 5 participants!

Gold Level. Run by the Wing AT Team in an “open expedition” style. Enrolment Evening, Two day training weekend, four day practice (including route planning day) and qualifying expedition Easy!

[size=5]eDofE – Embrace it!!![/size]

As with all things you need to allow time in your training programme to facilitate it. Regular informal “eDofE Nights” where the Sqn is open to allow updates as its time consuming! In my experience Bronze Participants need more hand holding than Silvers & Golds. Get different staff set up as leaders on the system so that one person isn’t approving all the evidence as it can be a big job looking at 20 – 30 pieces of evidence. Also make sure you photograph EVERYTHING and upload pictures directly to eDofE or onto your website/facebook group so the participants can use them as evidence!

I think that’s it for now…… Sorry for the epic post!


Good post - I agree with much that has been said there, and is pretty much how we do it - but for Bronze we often get the participants to mentor a cadet in the new intake over a period to help the cadet integrate into the squadron by having a friendly face they can go to and ask for advice. It doesn’t work for everyone of course, and depends on the size of the intake as to how many participants you can accommodate.

One other thing.

As Bronze is “free” for participants - send the Enrollment form out with your normal enrollment forms 3822A/Standing Order etc then you have their parents permission and you can enroll them at 14!

Redowling - I’ve done this in the past (and we’re currently doing it now for some cadets but trying to move towards a “group volunteering project” There are some other good ideas for Volunteering on Page 15 of the latest DofE Magazine which landed on my desk at lunch!

Badly - This will however change.

Takes time and patience!

Please excuse my ignorance, I have not got involved with the DoE work on Sqn since I was a Cadet myself completing Bronze, but this may serve to offer a different view point so thought I would share.

I was always under the impression, having been once told and since believed

  1. More DoE awards are handed out in the ATC than any other organisation
  2. 75% of what is required is completed “just by being a Cadet”

And believed that point (1) was true simply because of point (2)
The Skill, Service/Volunteering, and Sports/physical could all be covered by being a Cadet - attending community events, showing an improvement in sports (push-ups, sit-ups etc achieved in a minute) and passing through the classification scheme/gaining promotion/badge for brassard.

The expedition was the only thing “extra” but a great deal of this was covered in the “standard Squadron programme” (map reading, planning routes, walking, camping, cooking etc) and just needed to be brought together in a specific weekend.

As such all efforts on a Squadron parade night were and are put into the expedition, choosing the route, kit and how it will be shared, food and menus etc. and of course the groups.

Slightly off topic, and showing my age now, I received my 100 and 200 hours Millennium Volunteers Certificate simply by “being a Cadet” logging the hours spent car parking, marshalling or helping out at other such “community” based events. These same hours were also logged against my DoE requirement for “Service”
(I later collected my 1000hours Certificate once I had logged my hours as Staff)

I think this is true - but also the ATC is the worst operating authority for completions (i.e. has the greatest proportion of participants who start, but never finish, an award.)

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[quote=“redowling” post=2494]

I think this is true - but also the ATC is the worst operating authority for completions (i.e. has the greatest proportion of participants who start, but never finish, an award.)[/quote]

Pop Quiz:

Do you know what the % of completions is as a national average?

Not off the top of my head - I think in the discussion which generated the above snippet it was mentioned, but I can’t remember. Something like 40%?

Takes time and patience![/quote]

Does the DofE Award powers that be provide time and/or patience? :cheer:

You’re about right. Bronze is lower than that IIRC and the DofE Want to improve it to 50% across all the levels.

Perhaps they should stop subsidising it then.

Or, actively seek to recoup the money from squadrons should the participants fail to complete?

But its just included in the GP Amount that HQAC get in subs!

Maybe worth having a read of this -

I couldn’t make it in 2012, but the meeting is very good sounding board for ll things DofE, maybe worth chatting with your Wing DofE Officer…


Or, actively seek to recoup the money from squadrons should the participants fail to complete?[/quote]
Depends why they don’t complete.

The data supplied is or appears to be very basic and there is not enough detail to make any other than the very, very basic assumptions that seem to have been made.
It doesn’t state whether the completion numbers are for that year or for all those starting in that year and completing in the following year or the year after, ie someone who starts in say late 2011 may still be doing it and on course to complete in 2013. As I say the data is not good enough. I would either adjust the data or have another column indicating how many of that group have left the Corps, before completing. We put all of this on SMS and wouldn’t be difficult for anyone with even basic data management experience, to extract this and carry out the analysis. You would then get an accurate picture of what was happening.

I’ve always thought that Silver should be the free level not Bronze. That way there is an initial personal committment and more likely to complete Silver as they have already got a vested interest to do so. I’m also not a huge fan of making DofE compulsory, hence make Silver the free level. I think this is another factor why people don’t complete, no personal interest. I’ve got cadets who won’t enrol and there’s no way I’m going to make them. I don’t give them a form until they’ve enrolled in the sqn, I wonder how many squadrons just get the form filled out, sent it off and the cadets aren’t interested.