HRH Prince Edward Earl of Wessex visited Uplands Special School on 16 March as part of his tour to see first-hand the difference the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) makes to young people and communities in the South West.
Met by a crowd of flag waving youngsters at the front entrance, the prince watched students trampolining as part of the physical challenge aspect of the DofE scheme, before sitting in the front row to hear the Uplands DofE band – pictured top. Conducted by Paul Ashman they belted out their voice and African drum versions of Eye of the Tiger, We are the Champions and We will rock you – with some Brian May air guitar shapes thrown in for good measure.
The prince wasn’t quite moved to wave his hands in the air, but he couldn’t resist smiling widely, a bit of toe tapping appreciation, followed by applause with the others in the hall.
Member of the DofE band Jordan said: “I was really proud to sing for the prince. We all wanted to put on a good show for him.”
Fellow singer David, said: “I think he liked our show, he smiled a lot.”
In the school hall he also talked to some of the more than 70 students who are at various stages of the DofE award qualification at the adjacent Isambard Community School.
The prince then unveiled a plaque recognising the work Uplands does to provide inclusive opportunities for young people through the award scheme. Before departing he toured the school’s memorial garden, created to remember students who have passed away from life-limiting illnesses.
The charity is celebrating its sixtieth anniversary, having helped to transform the lives of millions of young people in the UK and across the globe since it was set up by the Earl’s father Prince Philip in 1956. As a trustee and a gold award holder, Prince Edward has championed the DofE for many years.
Uplands School and Uplands Educational Trust executive principal Jackie Smith, pictured right, said she was delighted with the royal visit. “It was a tremendous honour to welcome HRH the Earl of Wessex to Uplands School as part of his DofE Diamond Anniversary Tour. The students were really pleased to meet Prince Edwards and the staff were impressed with how at ease the Earl was with our young people.
“It was great to see our DofE students displaying their talents and talking to the prince about their recent expeditions. The DofE Award is a fantastic opportunity for our students to learn new skills whilst putting into practice one of our core learning values which is independence.
“The visit really highlighted the amazing achievements of our students and it was wonderful for them to be recognised by HRH.”
Peter Westgarth, Regional Director of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award said: “As we celebrate 60 years of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, it’s clear that the charity is an integral part of life at Uplands School which has played an invaluable role in the development of hundreds of young people in the community.
“It’s fantastic to see Uplands School being recognised for the outstanding work it does and enormous thanks must be given to the volunteers who work tirelessly to ensure that every DofE participant makes the most of this wonderful opportunity.”
Although the DofE Award is limited to 14 to 24 year olds, in its anniversary year the charity is calling on people of all ages to set and achieve their goals through the DofE Diamond Challenge. Inspired by the essence of the DofE, this one-off initiative for 2016 aims to give everyone a flavour of the life-changing benefits of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.
The charity is encouraging people to sign up at www.DofEDiamondChallenge.org and set themselves a challenge that they can be proud of – be that an adventure, a skill or something personal.
See more photos of the Prince’s visit