As a primary teacher of twenty-seven years, I have seen numerous pupils across the year groups waiting for an adult to do things for them. Like most teachers, I have constantly pushed children to do things for themselves. Whether that be to turn their clothes from inside-out to get dressed after PE or to create a website with hyperlinks with little help from staff or parents.
Since implementing the international Junior Duke Award in our school, I have been pleased to see a huge difference! The children are realising that they are more capable than they had previously thought (as are their parents!) and are more willing to give things a go. Children’s fear of failure seems to be diminishing and they are also much more encouraging towards each other, helping their peers to succeed.
The challenges vary from the first level, Micro Duke, to the final primary school level, Platinum Junior Duke, but they all gently push children out of their comfort zones. I have seen evidence of our pupils: setting fires, making cups of tea, washing their sheets, cooking dinner for the family, walking to the shop to buy the essentials, budgeting for their week’s packed lunches, learning First Aid, risk assessing adventure outings and fixing punctures. There are many challenges through the booklets that are linked to: fitness, life skills, First Aid, cookery, the environment and there are a good deal of them that involve public speaking. I have found that, although our pupils have a general fear of public speaking, when they are asked to do it for a Junior Duke task, they don’t seem to consider it as daunting so I find it is a great way for pupils to improve on this skill!
On completing any challenge with their families or friends, children have brought in their booklets to share their evidence and to show their self reflections. These have always been a lovely read as they have shown that the children have all taken something great from the challenge. They write about what they did, what was difficult, what they learned and when they think that skill will be of use to them again in the future. An example of a challenge in the Year 2 booklet can be seen here:
To get involved, I found it a simple process. There are videos to share with staff so that they all have an understanding of the ethos of the Award. Then, at the start of the school year, I hold an assembly when I tell the pupils about the Award. I send a letter home to the parents of those pupils who are interested and the families make payment to the school if their child is keen. Thereafter, I send in my school’s order and, quite quickly after that, I receive all of the booklets, certificates and badges. And we’re off!
There are schools all around the world, including some COBIS schools, offering the Award so wherever you are, you should join in too!
The kids are LOVING showing me their tasks they have completed and I have been really impressed with their efforts!
Mr Dennis, Assistant Head teacher
‘These challenges have been amazing for the kids, they have gained so much more confidence within themselves and watching them step out of certain comfort zones (even i have stepped out of my own with them using the oven and walking independently without me) has been an enjoyable and eye-opening experience…we cant wait to see what challenges await us in the next booklet.’ Parent of Year 3.
Examples of tasks:
At around age 8, children walk to a local shop independently to buy something like bread. This is to encourage confidence and care when crossing roads and paying for goods (an adult should follow to ensure safety but should not help).
One task these pupils enjoyed (and were a bit disgusted by people’s behaviour) is to think of their environment and go on a local litter pick. I am hoping it will lead to them being more aware of their own litter as they grow up.
Year 5s are asked to budget for their packed lunches and snacks for a week.
Year 4s are asked to sew something. We have been amazed by some of the creations! We have seen toys, cushions, gym bags and even a specially, designed iPad cover with the boy’s name appliquéd! What a great effort his was! He was incredibly proud of it and used it every day thereafter.
Children in Year 5 are asked to fix a puncture. I picked up a wheel at the local dump and children come in to puncture it and fix it in front of me. They’re mostly very quick and well-practised.
Children are asked to Care for Others by learning to knit or crochet a square. These squares are then sent off to Africa to be made into blankets for orphaned or vulnerable children. Our pupils love to know they are helping, even though it takes them forever to succeed in making their square (and some aren’t very square!). I find that the parents and grannies feel very useful as they are asked for help and some even send in their own squares to add to the pile!
Year 2s are asked to go on a bike ride and to think of all of the things they’ll need to take with them
Making a PowerPoint about your favourite hobby or holiday or passion has been really interesting for me to see. I have learned loads and it’s really helpful when it comes to writing reports!
Many of our children have felt empowered to make dinner for their families much more regularly after having learned how simple it can be! This boy made cottage pie. Our parents have been delighted, apart from the fact that most often, they complain that children don’t seem to be too good at tidying up after themselves…yet!
Handwashing is another challenging skill. A boy in our Year 3 had been up in the hills and fallen. He washed his jacket by hand and was amazed that this was how people used to do it before washing machines were invented!
To help children to learn about their own wellbeing, Year 6s are challenged to think about what makes them happiest. This boy loves being in the sea boogie boarding with his dad.
Want your school to be involved? Get in touch!