Thomas Paine Sixth Form Student Achieves Gold Duke of Edinburgh's Award

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July 31st 2023

On the evening of Thursday 6th July at Thetford Academy’s Award Evening, Sophie W was awarded her Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award from Jenny Simpson, the Operations Officer for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in West Norfolk, East Cambridgeshire and West Suffolk. As part of her achievement, Sophie will be attending a Gold Award celebration event at a Royal Palace, attended by a Member of The Royal Family. 

This outstanding achievement which involves volunteering for a period of 18 months, developing a high-level of skill in orienteering, and planning and executing a 4-day expedition in the Lake District. Sophie said: 

“Our expedition in the Lake District was amazing! We spent 3 nights and 4 days assessed (although we camped for 5 nights) hiking up mountains, and wild camping at Styhead Tarn. 


We had a difficult expedition due to extreme weather, with rain and wind causing us to leave our wild camp very early in the morning and hike down into the valley in pouring rain! Despite this (maybe because of this!) our expedition was an amazing experience. We wild camped, filtered water, walked surrounded by sheep, hiked by ourselves and cooked outside under the stars!”  

As well as completing the Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, Sophie has recently finished Year 13 at Thomas Paine Sixth Form having studied Maths, Biology and Chemistry A-Levels. Although Sophie will continue her studies at Canterbury Christ Church University, her plans for the near future include using her skills to go on more expeditions, saying: 

“I hope to study physiotherapy at university in September and join the hiking societies!  


I plan to travel more in the future. I'm really excited to go camping and hiking again, and I already have a trip to the Lake District planned! From all the preparation, experience and skills from our expeditions, I feel fully equipped to explore new places by myself, as well as travel and hike safely.” 

Sophie developed numerous skills through the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, including orienteering, effective planning and problem solving, as well as the ability to adapt to new situations. Sophie also gained skills in leadership, though the expeditions and volunteering, achieving the ASDAN and the Girlguiding Young Leadership qualifications. Sophie said: 

“As a part of my 18 months volunteering, I volunteered with my local Girlguiding Rainbow unit, achieving the Young Leadership qualification which I am really proud of. Following from these experiences and confidence gained there and with the DofE, I successfully applied to be a member of Girlguiding National Youth Body, Young Leader Working Group (YLWG) which has given me a variety of opportunities to use my voice for change.  

Without the DofE I wouldn't have had the confidence or opportunity to apply! The DofE gave me the skills and confidence to take these opportunities. I've loved being a Rainbow Young Leader and will continue to volunteer with Girlguiding where I am currently a Leader with a Brownies unit, who are amazing. I am currently working towards my Adult Leadership qualification. 


After my Rainbow unit moved location, I was unfortunately unable to continue to volunteer with them, so volunteered with my local youth group, SPY, which I have really enjoyed and will continue with.” 

Sophie was grateful for the support she received from the teachers and staff at Thetford Academy and Thomas Paine Sixth Form in completing the Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award as well as achieving her A-Levels, saying: 

“The school and teachers have supported me no end throughout my DofE. I couldn't do Bronze or Silver but Miss Barry gave me the opportunity to do Gold, taking me on practice day walks. My team were amazing, teaching me how to cook on a Trangia (still not my strongest skill!) how to pack the bags and map read. All the teachers have been brilliant, supporting me with any missed work and always asking how it's going and offering advice and stories, which has been really encouraging!”  

Sophie was recognised for her achievement at Thetford Academy’s annual Awards Evening, and said: 

“It was amazing to receive my Gold Award at the Awards Evening ceremony. I was a bit nervous at first, but everyone getting their Bronze and Silver were really excited for me! It was great to talk to so many people about the DofE, telling them about the expedition and of course, encouraging them to continue with the DofE. 


I'm so proud of the achievement. Completing the award while also doing my A-Levels has been difficult, however it has really helped to give me the motivation to keep running and volunteering, which I love doing!”  

Duke of Edinburgh's Award Manager at Thetford Academy, Clair Barry said: 

“Sophie has been the dream DofE participant. She is the epitome of the reason that we accept direct entrants onto the award as despite not having completed Bronze or Silver, she is the first one of your Gold participants to complete her award - we couldn't be prouder of her.”