James Done - Camping Leader

James Done

What do you do for work?

I’m Assistant Principal at the Pingle Academy in Swadlincote, Derbyshire. I’ve worked here for 15 years and have been teaching History, Geography and RE for 32 years.


What adventurous activities does your school run?

We began running the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in 2019 and I became involved in leading the expeditions after COVID. We run a large, traditional camp for year 7 and SEND students which involve day walks, outdoor activities and mountain biking. We are lucky to have on site facilities and staff to run a forest school program.


What Mountain Training qualifications do you hold?

I’ve completed the Lowland Leader and Camping Leader qualifications.

A student standing next to her tent taking a photo of the sunset

Why did you want to gain the Camping Leader qualification?

We were concerned that despite the academy running a variety of camping activities, as well as having an experienced body of staff, none of us held a formal qualification. The Camping Leader qualification gave us a recognised qualification, confirming and developing many of our existing knowledge and skills, whilst giving a great starting point for less experienced staff.


What do you enjoy about taking groups camping?

Camping allows us to broaden the world view and experiences of our students, many of whom are from disadvantaged backgrounds or have Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. It builds resilience, independence and creates respectful relationships between staff and students.


How did you find the format of the qualification?

The online pre-course learning was easy to access and provided interesting background reading. The team of providers were supportive, knowledgeable and provided us with specific areas to present on to other members of the course. These topics included using different stove types, camping mattresses and water purification methods. The course was hands on, active and collaborative.

A group of students with camping gear taking a break on a path across a grassy hillside

How do you use the qualification now?

We have used the qualification to provide our own Duke of Edinburgh’s Award expeditions, rather than buying in an outside provider. This has allowed us to considerably reduce the cost to students, helping those from more disadvantaged backgrounds to take part. The qualification has been invaluable in providing the theoretical knowledge and application for our year 7 and SEND camps.


Have you found the qualification useful for delivering programmes like Duke of Edinburgh?

It has been exceptionally useful, building on our experience and turning that into concrete theoretical knowledge to train young people to safely complete their expedition. It goes hand in hand with the Lowland Leader qualification to provide everything you need for Bronze and Silver DofE Awards.

Students cooking over a trangia

What would you say to someone thinking about taking the qualification?

It's a must for anyone considering camping with young people, in any setting.


What are your plans for instructing in the future?

After having successfully delivered both Bronze and Silver DofE Awards as supervisor and assessor, we need to begin to look at provision for the Gold Award in our sixth form. As an academy, for this we need to continue to up skill our growing team of staff and build our bank of resources. Personally I’m looking at starting my Mountain Leader qualification.