DofE Paddling Supervision

Inland paddling
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elveys
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DofE Paddling Supervision

Post by elveys » Tue Sep 16, 2014 8:38 am

I am involved with a DofE paddling programme at a local school and interested to find out how others approach supervision on DofE practice and qualifying expeditions. The school is a Directly Licensed DofE Centre that has a large DofE programme with over 300 students a year going through Bronze, Silver and Gold but the paddling programme is relatively new having started 3 years ago. I also have no DofE experience prior to getting involved with the paddling.

We have done Bronze paddling for 2 years and this year we have also introduced Silver. At Bronze we offer canoe only and at Silver teams can mix canoe and kayak. For paddling we provide our own training and supervision and are fortunate to have a team of volunteers who are mainly paddlers, with most holding coaching and/or leadership tickets.

Typically students are aged 15 for Bronze, 16 for Silver, 17-18 for Gold.

At present our training programme for bronze is 4 days canoe paddling skills, 2 days expedition training including campcraft, packing gear in boats etc, 2 day practice expedition, 2 days assessed expedition.

At silver if students did not do bronze paddling they join in the bronze training programme up to and including expedition training. There is then a further 2 days canoe skills training for silver paddlers and 1 day expedition training. If any teams want to travel in canoe/kayak combo there is a further 3 days kayak training for any paddling kayak.

Up until now we have had supervisors on the water. For a recent Thames silver practice we had a couple of supervisors paddling ahead of the teams and getting sight of them at a couple of points through each day. Another supervisor set off about 20 minutes after the teams and maintained this gap. On the morning of day 1 we shadowed and had a bit more input to make sure navigation was ok and that locks were being managed safely.

What I am particularly interested in is how those of you involved in DofE paddling manage supervision on both the practice and qualifying expeditions and whether you have supervisors on the water, off the water, both etc. Also interested in arrangements for supervision at overnight camps. Also do you use any checkpoint systems for paddling or other methods for tracing teams?

Also appreciate that group ability is a factor and can have a bearing on supervision.

Thanks in advance for any info.

John

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David Robinson
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Re: DofE Paddling Supervision

Post by David Robinson » Tue Sep 16, 2014 8:53 am

Hi John

We have generally run canoe expeditions for silver groups. We have had a land based supervisor driving to check points, (usually a bridge over the river), and seeing them through. Then a qualified canoe coach following them, usually setting off about 15 to 20 minutes after them.

The groups are trained to about a 2 star ability in their craft, so they can rescue each other should anything happen. Part of that training also includes paddling with expedition kit and negotiating locks and other portages. They are also first aid trained. So they should be able to deal with most things that can happen, but should any kind of epic happen then the coach will catch up and help them out.

They also have a phone with them should they need to phone either supervisor. We have had more than one supervisor on the water when we've had larger numbers, with the extra one situated between groups. Also should there be any hot spots where there are some easy grade 2 rapids to negotiate the coach following them will catch up and see them through. This is down to the skill level of the coach.

Also to note we train gold expedition participants to a 3 Star Touring level.

Hope that helps.

Dave

elveys
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Re: DofE Paddling Supervision

Post by elveys » Tue Sep 16, 2014 2:43 pm

Thanks David, that's helpful and sounds like it is pitched similar to what we have been trying to achieve. What about supervision of camping for both practice and qualifying expeditions?

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Re: DofE Paddling Supervision

Post by DaveB » Tue Sep 16, 2014 7:36 pm

The Dofe leaders handbook gives guidance on supervision/assessment on the water and on supervision whilst in camp. From memory amongst other things it says that supervising by following one bend behind all day is too intrusive which underlines the need for training to a high standard of competence relative to the type of water being used on expedition.

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Re: DofE Paddling Supervision

Post by andy g » Tue Sep 16, 2014 8:00 pm

There is a fundamental issue here.

The handbook is specific about supervision being very much in the background , as one of the key learning points for the participants is self reliance, teamwork, and overcoming issues during the expedition.

However many Local Authorities , Schools, NGOs insist that all "outdoor" activities are carefully supervised to ensure the risk to participants is minimal. When I do a presentation to parents of participants wanting to do an expedition by water I can sense a welling up of parental "protective" feeling when I talk about "letting their offspring make mistakes so they can learn from them", and "getting them to manage the risks themselves"

I have always worked to try and find a compromise, by giving a pretty thorough training programme which covers peer rescues and I ensure they practice these a lot. I also do a lot of theory about managing the risks both on and off the water.
On the water I try to have a qualified team of at least 2 paddlers on the water out of sight of the participants but able to respond in the event of a genuine problem which the team's training has not prepared them for. I think a single visit to the campsites/accommodation per night is quite sufficient.

Andy G

elveys
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Re: DofE Paddling Supervision

Post by elveys » Tue Sep 16, 2014 9:54 pm

Adding a reply I got from someone else on this subject.

"I see all sorts of arrangements, and often it depends on operating authorities own rules rather than DofE rules. I've seen everything from total isolation to more adults paddling with the team than are in the team itself. Coming from a Scouting background, I can be fairly sure that participants know how to camp and cook meals, but that is not the case for some other OA's.

On practice expeditions, I have no problem with supervisors paddling with the group for some of the time. It allows them to assess paddling skills and team dynamics. For assessed expeditions, I would normally not expect any adult to be on the water with the young people unless water conditions dictated that safety cover was required. Under these circumstances, often the hard call has to be made. If it isn't safe enough for participants to be on the water unsupervised, is it safe for the expedition to proceed at all.

Supervision can be undertaken from the bank provided there is sufficient access. Best practice is that the team should be left alone as far as is practical. The word of the Summer with panel assessors has been "contamination": spending too much time with participants. Checks such as at locks should be fine, provided it is only to check that the team approach it safely, and there is no further intervention.

Training wise, I would expect every team to have completed a 2 star level training course as a minimum standard.

On camps, the ideal position is that you know the team has safely arrived at camp, and what time they leave the following morning. Adults camp at a different site. No further intervention should be required apart from the check that they have prepared a substantial meal. Pre-expedition checking of menus, with a single assessor visit on one night covers that. However, I do know that many campsites insist that an adult is present, but if so as much space as possible should be maintained.

On check points, I have seen this used for walking expeditions, but less so for water expeditions. Some assessors are now using SPOT devices to track teams in real time, particularly for Gold in Wild country. I'm ambivalent about this. Whilst it means the assessor knows where the team is, and can intervene early when a team gets lost, teams themselves change their behaviour, knowing that real time back up is so easily obtained. I prefer if at all possible to view the team from a distance, see how they are performing and only making contact is there is an apparent problem. However, interventions like delivering additional water on very hot days are not only acceptable, but fall under the safety category.

I'm probably a bit grumpy and purist about all this, seeing a wide variety of standards some of which fall below my perception of what having autonomous unsupported teams means."

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Re: DofE Paddling Supervision

Post by Nick Scots » Wed Sep 17, 2014 7:54 pm

All DofE Expeditions that are Qualifying and training should be remote supervision. Whatever the deployer has for their own procedures. So the DofE system is the appropriate one. If the deployed group cannot journey with remote supervision then they are doing the wrong route, have not be trained to the DofE Training framework level, and should not be doing an expedition !

Even the Training Expedition should be remotely supervised and un-supported and un-guided !

Nick Scots
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Re: DofE Paddling Supervision

Post by Nick Scots » Wed Sep 17, 2014 7:56 pm

elveys wrote:Thanks David, that's helpful and sounds like it is pitched similar to what we have been trying to achieve. What about supervision of camping for both practice and qualifying expeditions?
DofE camping should be remotely supervised. This is when wild camping is easier as you can be far away and out of site compared to being at the last pitch on a commercial site that the group are on.

Nick Scots
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Re: DofE Paddling Supervision

Post by Nick Scots » Wed Sep 17, 2014 8:01 pm

DaveB wrote:The Dofe leaders handbook gives guidance on supervision/assessment on the water and on supervision whilst in camp. From memory amongst other things it says that supervising by following one bend behind all day is too intrusive which underlines the need for training to a high standard of competence relative to the type of water being used on expedition.
Yip, that's the standard expected by an Assessor (which I am).

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Re: DofE Paddling Supervision

Post by elveys » Wed Sep 17, 2014 10:24 pm

Cheers for replies, really useful. Just to add I am a volunteer parent supervisor with only a few years involvement in DofE and the main reason for posting was because I have a view that we may be too closely supervising.
DaveB wrote:The Dofe leaders handbook gives guidance on supervision/assessment on the water and on supervision whilst in camp. From memory amongst other things it says that supervising by following one bend behind all day is too intrusive which underlines the need for training to a high standard of competence relative to the type of water being used on expedition.
I have a copy of the Handbook for DofE Leaders but couldn't see this in there or the paddle Expeditions document. I have ordered a copy of the Expedition Guide so perhaps that's where this is covered?

Nick Scots
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Re: DofE Paddling Supervision

Post by Nick Scots » Fri Oct 03, 2014 7:10 pm

elveys wrote:Cheers for replies, really useful. Just to add I am a volunteer parent supervisor with only a few years involvement in DofE and the main reason for posting was because I have a view that we may be too closely supervising.
DaveB wrote:The Dofe leaders handbook gives guidance on supervision/assessment on the water and on supervision whilst in camp. From memory amongst other things it says that supervising by following one bend behind all day is too intrusive which underlines the need for training to a high standard of competence relative to the type of water being used on expedition.
I have a copy of the Handbook for DofE Leaders but couldn't see this in there or the paddle Expeditions document. I have ordered a copy of the Expedition Guide so perhaps that's where this is covered?
If you do the DofE Supervisors course, you will grasp the concept of 'unguided' and 'remote supervision'. Wether it's horse riding or Canoeing it's the same. Exceptions could be a canal tunnel or canal lock portage, or a water crossing for walking, where the a specific hazard is identified for zoom in close supervision. For a short period. Letting and leaving a group of paddlers to 'get on with it' without me was hard to grasp initially but I reflected on how much training that they had done and realised the routes were appropriate in difficulty and they had the right kit. So let them get on with 'their expedition'.

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James G
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Re: DofE Paddling Supervision

Post by James G » Sun Oct 19, 2014 10:35 pm

The trick is to find appropriate water. At Bronze, our canoe groups require extra training sessions first and then have one day of canoe training. This is fine because the expeditions are on local canals which are rarely more than waist deep and little more than a canoe length in width. Our supervisors see them from the bank once or twice a day just to check that they're OK.

AT Gold, I discuss training requirements when they choose their routes. The huge time (and cost) of training to a level where I could let them go down a river like the Spey without a supervisor has, so far, stopped any group from taking it on, but I hope that one will eventually. I mostly supervise from the bank, trying to see the group once a day when possible, but I did directly supervise the rapids on the river Oich as they are a short section of significant hazard on a route that was otherwise well within their abilities.

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