By Dan Manvell, year 13 student.
I first learnt that the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme was facing cuts from East Sussex County Council at a DofE meeting 2 weeks ago and 2 days later I set up the petition. I have been doing DofE since Year 10, and I am now in Year 13 doing my Gold Award, so while I would still be able to complete my award, my sister, all of her friends and all of the other young people that want to do the award would have their access to it severely limited. That's why it was important to me that we stopped the cut and that I started the petition!
The petition grew quickly, thanks to friends and family signing and sharing it. I reached out to local media and posted in Facebook groups that had thousands of members that I knew would be sympathetic to the cause and they greatly helped. It was at the 2,500 signature mark that I started getting contacted by the media, and how I ended up on BBC South East Today and BBC Radio Sussex!
We presented the importance of DofE through multiple ways, a key part of it being the three things you have to do to get your DofE awards. You have to do some volunteering work, which underpins the value of work and being a constructive member of society. You have to do a physical activity, which helps keep you fit and provides stimulation in other means than social and educational. You also have to develop a skill, which can lead on to becoming a passion, such as mine with learning Chinese Mandarin, where I will be taking the GCSE in it in May 2017. The schemes costs the council just £29,000 a year to run, but adult volunteers give many times this value in voluntary hours on expeditions, helping at meetings to plan routes and other activities.
On Tuesday 24th January I met with Allan Strong, DofE coordinator for UCTC and other DofE Leaders in East Sussex at County Hall in Lewes, where I handed in the petition with almost 6,500 signatures to the Leader of the Council Keith Glazier and Lead Member for Children's Services Sylvia Tidy, who both expressed their support. We then went to the Cabinet meeting where they were deciding on the final budget to put to the full council, and a document was circulated with the cut to DofE removed! We knew we had been successful!
While we were obviously very pleased with the result, we were aware that DofE is a non vital services, and that continued severe cuts to council budgets by the national government were going to mean that councils are going to have to prioritise their services more and more, which will mean DofE will be back on the chopping board at some point. For the mean time, the County Council will continue funding DofE, which will give time for other funding options to be secured to allow DofE to survive into the future.
I have attached a link to the petition, as well as a video of me on the news!