Norfolk’s Duke of Edinburgh award scheme is back on track with support of Wymondham College

A principal who stepped in to save the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme in Norfolk said it was set to reach even more of the county's youngsters under the new leadership.

Last summer, the future of the initiative, which provides thousands of young people with life skills, confidence and a recognised qualification, was under threat when the county council announced it could no longer afford to run it.

But Wymondham College, and its principal Melvyn Roffe, offered to take over the management of the scheme from last September to help cut running costs.

Now, with the aid of �50,000 of funding from the county council, there are once again 5,000 young people taking part in the DofE in Norfolk.

Mr Roffe said: 'When the message went out that it was all going to close, people didn't sign up for this year.'

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But not long into the new school year, numbers had recovered again and the principal expects it to soon be more popular than under the county council's leadership. 'We're on a level playing field at the moment – that in itself was an achievement,' the Wymondham College principal said.

'We experienced a flurry of new interest on the back of all the concerns last year and we hope that this will translate into new participants in due course.'

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The Duke of Edinburgh Awards sees 14 to 24-year-olds working together to volunteer, acquire new skills, and head out on expeditions.

But when the county council decommissioned its youth service as part of major budget cuts, it no longer had the management structure in place to run the scheme.

Alison Thomas, cabinet member for children's services, said: 'Faced with large reductions in government grant, county councillors have had to take some very difficult decisions. But some positive and imaginative outcomes have emerged from an initially un-promising situation and working with Wymondham College to ensure the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme is preserved in Norfolk is one of those.'

Mr Roffe said the speed with which his offer was accepted by the authority showed how much it valued the awards.

He said they could not have been allowed to close in Norfolk. He said: 'I really couldn't believe this was going to happen.

'A lot of people who get a lot out of the DofE are those who struggle at school. The interaction and experience you get through the scheme is, I think, priceless.'

Mr Roffe hiring out its equipment and premises to others could generate the scheme an income of its own.

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