Queen's Scout Award- Five young people achieved the highest youth achievement within Scouting
All young people have the potential to achieve something amazing and to develop their own personal strengths. The Queen’s Scout Award (QSA) is the top award for all 16–25-year-olds, it’s flexible and it allows young people to create their own adventures and challenge themselves.
Young people must have registered and have been a member of Explorer Scouts or Scout Network for at least 18 months. The award challenges them to complete 18 nights away with Scouting, of which 12 must be camping. They’ll need to complete six international, environment or values-based activities, and the five QSA challenges (unless they’ve already completed their Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award). These challenges are based on skill, physical activity, service, expeditions and include a residential element. To wrap it all up, their final challenge is to present all the elements of their award to a suitable audience.
We talked to five young people who each had a different experience of the QSA: they took on the challenge for different reasons, shaped the award to suit them and took away something unique from the experience.
‘I was taking a skill I already had and working it up to a really high level.’
It’s been over 20 years since anyone in my District achieved the QSA. I’d already done the bulk of the work through my Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) so I just needed to complete the extra challenges. I’ve been playing the trumpet since I was seven and my trumpet teacher suggested I go for my grade 8. So that was my goal for my skill. Although it wasn’t a new skill, I was taking a skill I already had to a really high level.
I’m quite little and I’ve always been told that I couldn’t do an expedition because the food would be too much to carry. Then my County ran an open awards evening and explained that as well as a walking expedition, they also have cycling, canoeing and kayaking expeditions. At this point I’d never been in a boat, couldn’t swim and hated water, but I was like, ‘yeah, this is it! I won’t have to carry anything’. My mum thought I was ridiculous.
All the training took a year, so we used it to complete our physical recreation challenge. The expedition was four days of sea kayaking down the River Severn. For me, the biggest challenge was actually learning to kayak. There were some terrifying moments and there were tears, but it was amazing. I’m actually a kayak instructor now.
It’s weird how everything has come together – the QSA is what started it all.
‘Why shouldn’t you get awarded for something you enjoy doing?’
I try to complete as many cycling events as possible, that’s why the physical aspect of my award was cycling. Why not get awarded for something you enjoy? For part of this
I did a charity ride for Diabetes UK and helped raise just over £300 by cycling 100 miles around the Cornish coastline (which involved way too many hills for anyone’s liking). My nights away were spent with a group of friends on a cycling trip around Holland. For the skills section, I decided to take up the drums – I’m not too sure what my neighbours thought of that!
The residential is something that can delay the award, as some residential experiences can be hard to obtain or cost a fair amount of money. I volunteered at Glastonbury Festival, helping to pick litter. There was a mountain of the stuff!
I did my final expedition with the Hampshire Scouts in Dartmoor. Yes, I may have fallen waist-deep into some bogs – I wasn’t navigating – but singing ‘American Pie’ loudly in the rain with a friend I had only just met, to keep morale high, is a memory that will stay with me for a very long time.
‘I decided that I wanted to help the charity that helped me.’
For the volunteering section, I helped out with the Resources for Autism charity. I was already volunteering with them and decided I wanted to help the charity that helped me. I still attend their Thursday group, which is aimed at increasing our social independence so that we don’t always have to ‘go out with mum’. I thought the best way to help the charity that I use would be to give my time, rather than to give money.
Having autism made completing the award a bit more challenging. I had to organise it all myself and my organisational skills are atrocious. My parents said that they would help if I needed it, but if I was going to get the award, I should really do it myself.
I thought the award was going to be ridiculously difficult for me to get, but once I’d started to see elements getting ticked off, I realised that this was an award I could actually achieve. There have been other awards that I could never get, so it’s good to know that I am now a Queen’s Scout Award holder. When you’re stood in the quad at Windsor to receive your award, you realise just how far you’ve come and how well you’ve done to finish the highest youth award that you can gain in UK Scouting.
‘They taught us traditional dances... we taught them some basic hip-hop’
I went to Uganda for the international section where I learned about the culture and the people. A group of us helped out at the Kikaaya College School on the outskirts of Kampala, as my old school has an educational link with it. As well as plastering and painting walls, I learnt how to play African instruments and the Ugandan students taught us some traditional dances. In exchange we taught them some basic hip-hop, ballet and tap.
One day we held a concert and I played African drums with them. Every single bit of it was so much fun and I wouldn’t change any of it.
‘The award has given me more confidence to try new things.’
The award was a great opportunity to start something new and get back into hobbies that I enjoy. Joining a choir was something I’d wanted to do and the award just helped it all to click into place. My choir performed at the Lytham Proms and got to perform just before Alfie Boe in front of a massive crowd! We’ve performed in front of hundreds and hundreds of people now.
The expedition stands out in my mind because it was really challenging. We were in Snowdonia and on one of the last days we climbed Snowdon. I thought that was going to be the hardest day but it was actually the easiest because the rest of them were horrendous! We went in October – it was cold and there was snow on the ground. As I said, it was challenging!
After I achieved the award, everyone was so proud. My parents hadn’t realised how important this award was until we went to the ceremony and they saw for themselves. The atmosphere was amazing. The ceremony gave me a chance to reflect back on what I’d done and consider what I’ve achieved. The award has given me more confidence to try new things, and I’ve learnt some valuable skills. I’m training to become a primary school teacher and do my PGCE, so skills like planning help me with my job and life outside of Scouting too.
To read more information about the Queen’s Scout Award, visit members. scouts.org.uk/qsa.