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St Columba’s is the first school in the Scotland to receive the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

St Columba’s School in Kilmacolm is delighted that the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service (QAVS) has been conferred upon its Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) expedition volunteers in recognition of the training and supervision which volunteers have provided for over 30 years at Gold, Silver and Bronze levels. The expedition volunteers come from across the St Columba’s School community, including former pupils, former staff, current staff and parents of former and current pupils. They are experienced in hillwalking and prepare the pupils for their DoE expeditions and supervise them on the hills.

St Columba’s QAVS Volunteers

St Columba’s School is the first school in Scotland to receive the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service for Duke of Edinburgh’s Award activities. This is the highest award given to local volunteer groups across the UK to recognise outstanding work done in their communities. It is considered the MBE for volunteer groups. First announced in 2002 as part of the celebrations for The Queen’s Golden Jubilee, the award is given for outstanding achievement by groups of volunteers who regularly devote their time to helping others in the community, improving the quality of life and opportunity for others and providing an outstanding service.

St Columba’s first involvement with the DofE Award was in 1961 and after a brief gap was re-introduced to School in 1985 by the former Head of Outdoor Education, Mrs Carole Marr, whose commitment and service to the Award, both in School and nationally, led to her appointment as MBE in 2005.

St Columba’s DofE programme now led by Mr Gordon McConnell is run entirely in-house and offers Bronze, Silver and Gold levels with exceptional success. Each year over 120 participants benefit – almost the entire Senior III year group embark on the Bronze Award, with completion rates well above the national average, and more than one third progress to Gold. Sixth Year DofE participants also have the opportunity to complete the DofE’s Leadership Award; an award which our pupils became the first in Scotland to achieve in 2006.

The DofE Award has become firmly embedded in the ethos of St Columba’s School. The success with which the School has been carrying out the programme is impressive by any standard and something the new Rector is very proud of. Mrs Andrea Angus said,


“St Columba’s would not be able to run the DofE without the great number of volunteers who give so freely of their time – some amounting to 25 years’ service to the School. We are exceptionally fortunate to have such a dedicated, committed and experienced group of volunteers who ensure that the highest standards of training and supervision on the hills is enjoyed by our young people. We are thankful to our Award leaders and the many members of staff, parents, former pupils, former and current parents who throughout the years have truly led by example – often in the most challenging of weather conditions. The life skills developed are invaluable to our pupils’ education.”

Dr Judy Semple Retired, Volunteer DofE Expedition Supervisor and Trainer said,


“I have seen hundreds of splendid young people achieve things that many of them didn’t think were possible. I have seen determination, effort, hard work, occasional tears, endurance, commitment, laughter, fun and teamwork, all combining to create this wonderful sense of achievement which I see time and time again on the faces of the teams at the end of a long expedition trek. For me, that is what it is all about and why I am delighted to continue to be part of the St Columba’s DofE team.”

Representatives from DofE Scotland attended the presentation and Barry Fisher, Director of DofE Scotland said,


“Another first for St Columba’s School recognising the extraordinary commitment of so many volunteers over decades. It’s nice that this has been recognised with a national honour to such a humble group of people who have poured in thousands and thousands of hours to the School and the wider community. I was delighted to be part of the day and see the whole school recognise and celebrate that level of commitment. Overall an amazing achievement for the volunteers and the School.”

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