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ACG Strathallan has offered the Cambridge programme since it first opened in 2001, and is one of five ACG schools based in New Zealand which all offer the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award.
Robyn Pryor, Deputy Principal at ACG Strathallan, said: ‘We introduced the Award in 2003 to provide students with an opportunity to develop a number of core skills such as leadership, teamwork and confidence. It supports our aim of providing students with a holistic education which complements the academic Cambridge programmes we offer.
Robyn describes the benefits of the Award programme as “tremendous”.
‘It’s a great way for students to develop their skills and ability in a number of areas,’ she said.
‘The scheme develops leadership skills through encouraging self-reliance, perseverance and a sense of responsibility to others. The various components of the Award give students a safe environment to push themselves outside their comfort zone and build confidence and self-esteem.’
Robyn says the Award is very student-driven, starting with participants having to decide on the skill or service they want to do.
Activities the school’s students have taken part in over the years include sports coaching, writing the memoirs of a resident at a local retirement village, tree planting, learning a musical instrument, tutoring younger students, calf rearing, dog training and assisting with theatre productions.
The Adventurous Journey section of the Award involves undertaking a team expedition in an unfamiliar environment, and Robyn says this brings mental and physical challenges.
‘Students who have a good level of physical fitness can be challenged by having to work as a team and by having to support slower walkers or those less comfortable with the activity, whereas students who have never hiked before can find the experience physically challenging,’ she continued.
Robyn sees a close link between the skills students develop through the Award and the Cambridge learner attributes.
‘The learner attributes emphasise the importance for schools to consider what goes on beyond formal classroom instruction,’ she said.
‘Cambridge International looks to create learners who are confident, responsible, reflective, innovative and engaged. Co-curricular activities like the Award provide an opportunity for students to develop these inter and intra-personal skills.’
Former student Sarah Balchin said taking part in the Award helped become more confident.
She said: ‘Throughout the experience, I gained lifelong skills in perseverance, commitment and teamwork.
‘The Award has been brought up in job interviews and has been a great point of discussion for the interviewer to get to know me better. It motivated me to study and work within the environmental sector, and I now have a degree in Environmental Science. I believe it equipped me with the skills, knowledge and confidence to get to where I am today.’
Sarah Summerscales also said she benefited enormously from taking part in the Award.
‘Completing the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award programme gives you a point of difference when applying for university and scholarships and when looking for jobs,’ she said.
‘The programme teaches so many skills that are invaluable to many aspects of life. Looking back five years after completing my Gold Award, it was one of the best things I could have done.’