years of DofE service for Mr Tilson

Thursday May 18, 2023

Concord College biology teacher and Duke of Edinburgh Leader, Paul Tilson, has recently been recognised by the corporation for his 35 years of hard work and service to the Duke of Edinburgh award in Shropshire Schools. Last week, Paul met with Concord’s 6.2 student, Anders, who is a UK Youth Ambassador for the Duke of Edinburgh award. The two discussed their experiences of DofE and the importance of outdoor education. When reflecting on his experience of the Duke of Edinburgh award, Paul explained how attending a small and rural school meant he was not offered the opportunity to complete DofE as a student. However, his first job as a field biologist in Ludlow required him to introduce the Duke of Edinburgh award to local schools: “It allowed me to find out more about the scheme, how DofE would work in schools and how to get students excited about it”. Therefore, when his contract expired and he moved to teach at Church Stretton Secondary School, Paul used his experience to volunteer alongside a group of parents and set up a DofE programme there: “During this time, DofE grew within Shropshire and it really felt like we were part of a great team”. Two decades later, Paul was pleased when he interviewed for the role of a biology teacher at Concord College and was immediately offered the additional job of helping to further develop the DofE and outdoor education programmes. “From the get-go, here at Concord, DofE was something we talked about and was also something I really wanted to do”, recalled Paul. Looking back on his own experiences, DofE UK Youth Ambassador, Anders, explained how he grew up as a true “city boy” and had little experience of outdoor education before moving to Concord College. “My school would go on camps, but they were much different to what we do at Concord. The tents would be set up before we got there and there was little we had to do ourselves”. Anders laughed when remembering that he would take his suitcase (instead of a now-trusty backpack) on these trips: “There wasn’t much space left in the tent once my suitcase was in there!” he said. “After going on the DofE practice walks in Form 3 (Year 9), I spoke to my parents who encouraged me to sign up. I went into the experience without really knowing anything”. Anders and his teacher, Paul, reminisced on some of their most memorable moments from DofE: “I remember Anders and his team mate, Megan, kept me waiting at the Woodside Farm checkpoint for most of the day because they couldn’t find the entrance gate into the field!” said Paul. They fondly recalled how, after meeting with some “angry cows” whilst attempting to avoid a muddy puddle, the pair had met Mr Tilson at the checkpoint comically covered in mud. Finally, Anders and Paul discussed how students can successfully balance all components of the Duke of Edinburgh award, especially whilst studying at a fairly remote school, where many of the students are boarders. “I think we have to get much more creative with things like the volunteering” said Paul, who described how students are encouraged to utilise their skills to volunteer around the college or in the local village. Becoming innovative with the volunteering and skills aspect of the DofE award has allowed for many wonderful initiatives to begin, for example the group of Concord boys who have learned to sew and are spending their time sewing sanitary products for people in need in Ethiopia. Following his experience with DofE at Concord College, Anders has served as a 2022-2023 DofE UK Youth Ambassador, where he has represented the charity at exciting events whilst also being a voice for the younger generation within the programme. Meanwhile, Paul continues to aid Concord College with their Duke of Edinburgh programme and has been recognised for his brilliant 35 years of service as a leader and assessor. You can read more about Anders' experience as a UK Youth Ambassador by clicking here.