Byline: Ben Turner
THIS week's deluge may have put the rain into Rainford High Technology College but you'll be hard pressed to find a set of students more able to brave the elements.
Students are masters of map reading and take it from me they can put up a tent within two minutes.
And the fact both girls and boys at the school think nothing of spending their weekend up a hill is down to the school embracing the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme.
The programme challenges young people aged 14 to 25 throughout the world to serve others, acquire new skills, experience adventure and make new friends.
And here it is alive and kicking with the school the second biggest provider of the award in the country.
Head of geography and Bronze Duke of Edinburgh leader Jonathan Halewood said: "We start it here at 14 with the bronze award.
"It is voluntary and extra curricular but we are one of the largest centres in the country.
"Last year alone we had 131 students doing the bronze award and of them 80 have carried on this year to do the silver and around 30 will be doing gold in the sixth form.
"We just think the Duke of Edinburgh is a great opportunity for them to embrace the outdoors.
"Some students have never been away before let alone read a map or taken a rucksack out in the countryside.
"It's a great way to build up their self esteem and confidence.
"Each level has two expeditions a year, a practice and a qualifier."
For the advanced gold sixth form students take their skills abroad - such as canoeing in Sweden - as part of the qualification which involves meeting a host of different assessment criteria.
But for bronze students the adventures start closer to home with students taking part in a range of day walks alongside the expeditions which have taken them to lowland areas ranging from North Wales to Lancashire's Ribble Valley.
But these are not leisurely days out.
The students have to be self sufficient, carrying everything they need for the expeditions in rucksacks.
This includes their tents, food and stoves.
This often means their packs weighs around 13kg and for final assessment weekends they must show competency in areas as diverse as being properly equipped to the ability to rustle up a proper meal.
Supervisors do travel with the students but they deliberately keep a distance, meeting up only at designated check points.
But much of the work can be traced back to the classroom.
Mr Halewood said: "We do things such as map reading sessions and the students also do things like learning how to use a compass and put up a tent.
"They will also look at how to pack a nutritious meal."
Students also take an accredited first aid course.
And as well as outdoor tasks students give up their own free time and school holidays.
That is because to pass the awards the students must cover three additional elements - skills, physical and volunteering. …