High Commissioner's speech at St Paul's College International Youth Awards

British High Commissioner Marianne Young encouraged students to participate in this prestigious award programme, affiliated to the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Marianne Young

I am delighted to be here today again to join you at this event marking the achievement of St Paul’s pupils participating in the International Youth Award scheme, which is affiliated to the UK’s Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme.

I am a firm believer in the benefits of this laudable programme and the development of rounded and capable children that this scheme promotes.

I have been asked to tell you a bit about the history of the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. They were established back in 1956 following collaboration between a forward-thinking German educationalist, Kurt Hahn, and the Queen’s then young husband the Duke of Edinburgh - His Royal Highness Prince Philip.

The Duke had attended Hahn’s then new boarding school in Scotland called Gordonstoun in the 1930s. It was a progressive school (and still is) with a strong emphasis on the importance of physical education and the need to invite young people to improve their own standards.

Hahn introduced a badge scheme to the school, which required pupils to achieve particular standards in a variety of sporting disciplines. He extended this to other schools in the area and approached Prince Philip to roll it out further across the country.

This led to the eventual creation of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards as an achievement-based programme to assist with the development of young people.

This prestigious award is the world’s leading achievement award for young people and it aims to create a world where young people can fulfil their potential whatever their circumstances. Taking part in it builds confidence and builds self-esteem. It requires persistence, commitment and has a long lasting impact on the attitudes and outlook of all young people.

The awards mission statement is: to inspire, guide and support young people in their self-development and recognise their achievements.

There are now 850,000 young people participating worldwide in 140 countries, including Namibia.

The Awards continue to go from strength to strength. Since 1956, over 8 million people have taken part across the world.

The Awards help to inspire people to challenge themselves, to get involved in youth work and to create a brighter future for all young people.

It will also come as no surprise to hear that Award holders are highly valued by both employers and educational establishments, as has been proven by independent research by the United Learning Trust.

There are many success stories associated with the Awards in relation to this and I would like to share the success story of one British participant Shaun Conway with you today.

Shaun recently started on ScottishPower’s Modern Apprenticeship Programme and he believes the experience and knowledge he gained through The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award helped him gain one of the highly sought after apprenticeships.

The 18 year old from Port Glasgow has Bronze and Silver Duke of Edinburgh Awards under his belt, and is currently doing his Gold. He was lucky enough to be selected from hundreds of applicants and started his three-year apprenticeship in late 2011. He’s training as an apprentice cable jointer, working on the underground cables that supply electricity to homes and businesses and that connect to the electricity network.

“There was a lot of competition for the apprenticeships at ScottishPower and I don’t think I would have been successful without the confidence I had gained through Duke of Edinburgh. It meant I wasn’t overwhelmed by the situation and I also had lots to talk about with relevant skills, knowledge and experience.

One of the most important skills I learned was determination and not to give up regardless of how challenging the situation and to always find a way to solve any problems.

The Duke of Edinburgh requires commitment and dedication and these are invaluable skills to take into any aspect of life or any workplace.

On this note, I congratulate all the participants gathered here for your many achievements in completing these awards.

You have shown commitment, energy, dedication and drive to accomplish your goals and complete these Awards. I trust you will take forward all these qualities into your life, both through and beyond school, where they will stand you in good stead in the wider world.

You have both set yourselves - and achieved - some challenging goals. You have inspired each other with your accomplishments.

It is this power of inspiration which I hope you will take forward from the Awards – to help dream big, achieve ambitious goals and help create a brighter future for yourselves and your communities.

Well done all of you - and let this just be the first step of many achievements to come.

Thank you.

Published 28 March 2013