Duke of Edinburgh at HMP Bronzefield

Rod Clark, Prisoners' Education Trust, Chief Executive reports back from a visit to HMP Bronzefield on 19th February to meet the young women who completed their Duke of Edinburgh Bronze award.

"The Duke of Edinburgh scheme has been inspiring young people to take on challenges, develop skills and self reliance for decades – it is one of the best known brands for youth development. Their programme is ideal for meeting the development needs of young people in custody. But say the words ‘Duke of Edinburgh’ to most people who have come across the scheme and the image in their mind will be of young people bowed down by rucksacks trekking into the great outdoors. That is not an image that fits easily within a custodial setting.

Last month, a group of people interested in working with young prisoners gathered together in the visitors’ centre at HMP Bronzefield in Middlesex to hear about how prisons have been working with the team from DoE to make these opportunities a reality. The award requires the young people to devote time to activities relating to skills, service and a physical challenge such as an expedition. The young women undertaking the award at Bronzefield got involved in a range of different challenges including dance, baking and working in the healthcare department. Tina Hurt, Senior Officer and DofE Co-ordinator at Bronzefield said the women learned to work as a team and helped each other through the course, as well as helping across the prison, volunteering to support wheelchair users to get around and cleaning each other’s rooms.

Liam Nolan, who works with Tina at Bronzefield said: “All of them had a great attitude towards the scheme and gave it their best. Helping other ladies around the prison was very rewarding for them.”

When it came to the expedition, and with the support of the friends of Bronzefield who provided the equipment, the group trekked around the perimeter searching for specific flowers, built their own shelter for a kitchen and camped out away from the wing. One novel and exciting challenge was to plan and prepare their own menus – an area of personal responsibility and control that simply doesn’t arise in custody. Everything needs to be written down and evidenced – a task that should become much easier with the availability of the web-based e-DofE via the Virtual Campus shortly.

Liam added: “The scheme showed them that when they put their minds to it they can accomplish anything and it has inspired them to try many new things when they get released from prison.”

So what did the women themselves think? As ever it was the words and attitudes of the participants that carried the most conviction. For them it was not only “good fun” and something that they were glad to have done. It proved that they could achieve things. In a journey away from custody, that is not a bad thing to have demonstrated both to yourself and to others."

To find out more about opportunities to support the Duke of Edinburgh’s award in a prison context visit www.DofE.org.