Wymondham College steps in to save Norfolk’s Duke of Edinburgh’s Award schemes

A Norfolk school has put the 'Big Society' into effect by stepping in to rescue a scheme that gives thousands of young people life skills, confidence and hope for the future.

After months of delicate negotiations, Wymondham College has saved the Duke of Edinburgh's Awards in the county, a few months after its future was in doubt when the county council threatened to pull out of running it.

In a deal believed to be a nationwide first, the state boarding school will take over the day-to-day running of the awards scheme, with the help of �45,000 per year in grants from the council.

And principal Melvyn Roffe is hoping that the arrangement will enable the scheme - which is accessed by more than 1,000 14-24-year-olds in Norfolk each year - to improve and expand across the county.

Mr Roffe said: 'When the proposal came through from the county council, saying it wasn't going to be able to support it any longer because of the removal of the youth service, it seemed very damaging to us, and pretty crazy in terms of the amount of volunteer leverage provided from a relatively small amount of money.

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'Hundreds of people across the county put their effort into it, but they couldn't do that without the organisation to help them.

'We will provide the operational support, the council will still hold the licence, and the regional award office will be involved in quality assuring the service.'

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He added: 'As a way of encouraging personal development, the scheme takes some beating. It encourages children to get out their comfort zone and to develop skills they haven't had before.

'It makes them more rounded, competent and enterprising individuals.'

He said he understood that the BBCTV Coast presenter Nick Crane had achieved his DofE gold award while at Wymondham College.

The resolution of the issue came after the proposal to end the DofE scheme in Norfolk was made in the county council's Big Conversation - a public consultation that sought to establish how to save millions of pounds.

The governors at Wymondham College formally agreed last night to take over the management of the DofE schemes in the county, with the council's staff transferring across to the college.

Council leader Derrick Murphy said: 'During the Big Conversation it became clear to us that the Duke of Edinburgh's Award was held in high regard in the county and was something that we should continue to fund.

'It gives young people opportunities to take part in expeditions, develop skills for life and volunteer in their local communities and we were pleased to be able to continue to support its valuable work.

'However, we have moved away from directly delivering many services as we look at more efficient ways of working and we are no longer directly providing youth services. This means that the management structures to oversee the scheme are no longer in place within the council and we are hugely grateful to Wymondham College for stepping in and offering their support.'

The arrangement will also mean that Trimingham Adventure Centre and campsite will stay in the ownership of the county council but the management of the facilities will be transferred to the college.

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