BBC Newsround presenter Martin Dougan visited Derwen College, near Oswestry, to find out more about the college’s hugely successful Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards (DofE) programme.

Presenter Martin talked to students at the specialist college, in Gobowen, for a feature which broadcast on 21 March to tie in with World Down Syndrome Day.

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He met and chatted to students including Ciara, Duncan, and Luke, who all have Down’s Syndrome. Ciara is well on her way to completing her prestigious Gold award, whilst Duncan and Luke are working on Silver.

Martin was joined by journalist Esther Egbeyemi, DofE communications officer Flo Brookes and DofE Youth Ambassador Ashley Williams.

Students were supported by Performing Arts and Learning for Life lead Jessie Vaughan.

Student Ciara said she had loved meeting Martin Dougan, and was excited to see herself and the Derwen team on the television. At the time of broadcast, Ciara was part of a five-day Gold Award practice expedition at FSC Preston Montford, near Shrewsbury.

She said: “It was great to meet Martin and tell him about my Gold award and what it means to be part of DofE. I will be taking part in a walking expedition, and have been doing swimming and volunteering around College.

Derwen College is incredibly proud of the number of students with complex special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) who challenge themselves to go outside of their comfort zones to achieve these demanding awards. Derwen College was one of the first specialist colleges to embark on Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards, back in 2014, and continues to develop its DofE programme.

Last year, a grand total of 65 awards were presented to students. Their achievements were made even more impressive as students and staff had to contend with Covid restrictions on top of the usual DofE challenges.

During lockdown the college’s main campus has been busy developing a dedicated Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards base. Students have been clearing the woodland site and painting and refurbishing outbuildings as part of the Volunteering section of their awards.

Last year, Duke of Edinburgh’s Award leader Steve Evans was presented with a limited-edition commemorative coin to mark his commitment to supporting students to achieve the award. He was one of only 50 people in the UK to be honoured in this way.

Steve said:

“Seeing students achieve things that they never believed they could achieve is the reward that motivates me in my work for Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards. The progress that students make over the programme is phenomenal and that’s an amazing thing to be a part of.

“Everything we do at Derwen, is a team effort. Thank you to the staff and student team at Derwen, and for all the support we receive from the regional and national DofE team. It is very much appreciated and ensures many young people at Derwen College get to take part, enjoy and benefit from in the award.”

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