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Empowering Students at Pioneer House to Shine


At Pioneer House, we believe in providing our students with a well-rounded education that extends beyond the classroom. That's why we are thrilled to announce our continued participation in the prestigious Duke of Edinburgh's Award (DofE) program. Currently aimed at students in Key Stage 4 and above, this renowned initiative empowers our students to develop essential life skills, explore their passions, give back to the community, and embark on thrilling expeditions.


Here is an overview of the exciting opportunities the DofE program offers and how it benefits our students at Pioneer House:


Autonomy in Choice:

One of the most remarkable aspects of the DofE program is that it grants our students autonomy in shaping their own experiences. In line with the program's framework, our students have the freedom to choose their skill, volunteering activity, and physical endeavour. This unique flexibility allows them to pursue their interests, discover new talents, and develop a diverse range of skills. Whether it's learning a musical instrument, honing leadership abilities through community service, or improving physical fitness, students have the chance to embark on a personal growth journey tailored to their individual aspirations.


Volunteering for a Greater Cause:

The DofE program places great emphasis on community engagement and encourages our students to contribute positively to society. Through the volunteering component of the award, students are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in meaningful projects that make a difference. Whether it involves supporting local charities, assisting at a care home, or engaging in environmental conservation efforts, students gain a profound sense of fulfilment and learn the value of giving back to their communities. This commitment to service fosters empathy, compassion, and a strong sense of social responsibility.


Exploring Physical Potential:

Physical fitness and well-being are crucial for a healthy and balanced lifestyle. The DofE program recognises this importance and offers students the chance to embark on a physical activity of their choice. From team sports to individual pursuits, the program encourages our students to challenge themselves physically, set goals, and strive for personal improvement. Engaging in regular exercise not only promotes physical health but also instills discipline, resilience, and self-confidence.


The Thrill of Expeditions:

One of the most anticipated aspects of the DofE program is the opportunity to undertake an exciting expedition. This thrilling experience allows students to venture beyond their comfort zones, test their resilience, and cultivate essential life skills such as teamwork, problem-solving, and navigation. Whether it's hiking through picturesque landscapes, conquering mountain peaks, or navigating waterways, these expeditions create lasting memories, forge lifelong friendships, and foster a deep appreciation for the natural world.


The Duke of Edinburgh's Award program at Pioneer House is a testament to our commitment to nurturing well-rounded, resilient, and self-motivated individuals. By participating in the DofE program, our students have the opportunity to explore their passions, develop crucial life skills, contribute meaningfully to their communities, and embrace new adventures through expeditions. We are incredibly proud of our students' engagement with the program and the transformative impact it has on their personal growth. The Duke of Edinburgh's Award truly empowers our students to shine, equipping them with valuable experiences that will shape their future success.












Pioneer House instrumental in changes to the DofE Award for SEND young people 2023!


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Our most recent expedition was instrumental on our journey for equal rights for students with SEND and we were nationally recognised by the DofE and used as a case study in their feature article announcing changes to their regulations! Part of the article is shared below:




3 years ago, when the pandemic hit, the DofE – and our amazing volunteers across the UK – acted quickly to introduce the flexibility to make sure participants could continue with their DofE activities, offering much-needed motivation, focus and routine at an extremely difficult time for young people.

That experience gave us an opportunity to talk and listen to our volunteers and young people and understand how those temporary changes had helped them.

What we heard was that – for many young people – the increased flexibility made them feel able to do their DofE when they might not have before. More flexibility led to more innovation and greater inclusion – for example, for young people with SEND requirements.


As a result of this feedback, we’re refreshing the requirements for planning and doing DofE expeditions to offer more flexibility and choice. From November 2023, the ‘20 Conditions’ that currently govern DofE expeditions will be replaced by a new set of Expedition Requirements.


Our new Expedition Requirements remain true to the ‘20 Conditions’ – but in some areas we’ve refreshed the wording to make sure expeditions can be adapted to meet the needs of all today’s young people.

The updates are designed to remove barriers for young people who might otherwise feel they cannot take part in a DofE expedition – such as those with medical conditions or who require specialist support – while losing none of the quality and challenge that makes a DofE Award such a highly recognised achievement.


The changes in action


Two specialist South Manchester high schools supporting young people with special educational needs – Pioneer House and Piper Hill – adjusted aspects of their expeditions in Windermere, Cumbria, to make sure they could provide the right support for their students.

The schools joined together to form their expedition teams and chose to stay overnight in camping pods. Due to the young people’s needs, staff members accompanied the group throughout their expedition, and all equipment other than that needed for the walk was kept at the campsite.

The young people created a meal plan and shopping list using visuals, went to the supermarket together, and were supported to cook a substantial hot meal on camping stoves, taking responsibility for their own pot washing.

The students’ team goal was to study local flora and fauna, using picture reference sheets. They walked circular routes local to the campsite, using a brief description of the routes and pictures to navigate’.


Kiya, DofE Leader at Pioneer House School, said: 


“One of our pupils really didn’t want to stay overnight at first – he was really anxious. However, he got past it and after the first night he picked up. Every day since he has asked us ‘when are we going on the next expedition?’ – he can’t wait to do Gold and he’s involved in so many other clubs and activities outside of school, all contributing to his DofE. We’ve seen a total change in him. He’s dead proud of himself, and so are his carers.”

“The DofE in general is important because unlike academic qualifications, it’s a level playing field for our pupils – they work just as hard as pupils in a mainstream school to get their Awards. And the expedition itself is probably both the hardest but most exciting part for our pupils. Some of them don’t get many opportunities to spend time away from home or school – a lot of them had never been to the Lake District or seen mountains before. We offer most activities for their DofE sections during the school day, but the expedition is a chance for them to visit a new place – something many wouldn’t be able to do independently yet. It’s a big motivator for them.”


“By making reasonable adjustments, our pupils are able to complete their Expedition section, and therefore achieve their full DofE Award. The fact that they can achieve an Award which is the same throughout mainstream centres across the country gives them a huge sense of pride.”


These adjustments allowed young people from Pioneer House and Piper Hill to feel safe on their DofE Expedition, as well as reassuring their parents and carers that they would be supported on an overnight stay in an unfamiliar environment.


Check out the article in full here:


Check out the official webpage of the DofE here:



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