“Great things are done when men and mountains meet’ – W. Blake
‘In order to see how far you can go, you sometimes have to risk going too far’ – T.S. Elliott
‘What lies behind us behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us’ – Ralph Waldo Emerson
‘Plus est en vous’ – (Motto of Gordonstoun School found in a Belgian Church by Kurt Hahn)
Given its perfect congruence with the whole person development goals of the Royal School and with the positive psychology espoused through the PERMA Five Pillars of sustained well-being model embraced by the school, The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme is given great prominence at the Royal School and is offered at all three levels: Gold, Silver and Bronze.
The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme grew out of the Moray Badge introduced to Gordonstoun School, situated in that eponymous county in Scotland, by its brilliant founder, the German educator, Kurt Hahn. Hahn went on to found the Outward Bound movement and helped to found the United World Colleges and the Round Square (named after a boarding house at Gordonstoun School) movement.
Hahn believed that character education should be placed at the heart of the curriculum and that it could be taught. The motto of the school ‘Plus est en vous’ (There is more within you than you think) was taken very seriously by Hahn and he set out to prove to pupils that there was indeed far more within them than they thought. He believed in impelling pupils into activities which they thought were so far out of their comfort zone, they could not possibly do! Wilderness training, which is the core feature of the Outward Bound movement and the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, does just that. The term ‘Outward Bound’ is a poetic, maritime metaphor. It is also an inspirational metaphor for excellent parenting and teaching! Just as the boat must be ‘outward bound’ from the safety and calm of the harbour and head into rough seas on its own, so must the young pupil eventually leave the tranquil and secure bosom of the family and go out to weather the choppy seas and howling squalls of life.
The Duke of Edinburgh Award is therefore, like all activities in the school, not a group of disparate activities thrown together serendipitously with fingers crossed for outcomes but is, rather, a carefully designed experience of survival in the wilderness which grows and develops character. The character growth accrues from the sense of achievement, pure elation and increased self-esteem experienced by completing the gruelling Duke of Edinburgh expedition and by serving others (another feature of the Award Scheme). It is achievement that requires endurance and learning the meaning of delayed self-gratification. It is little wonder that astute employers rightly look out for this qualification and call it privately “The A level in character”. If there is an A level in character the Royal School Armagh is very interested in it!