More than 320,000 young people started their Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in the past year, the highest number in the youth scheme’s 67-year history.
More than half a million young people are currently working towards their award across the UK, the charity’s annual statistics show.
The 537,759 figure is up more than 10% on 2021/22.
The scheme was set up by Prince Philip, the late Duke of Edinburgh in 1956 and is considered one of his greatest legacies.
Earlier this year it was announced that the new Duke of Edinburgh, formerly known as Prince Edward, would become patron of the award.
Releasing its latest figures for the past year, the charity said it had made progress in its aim to reach one million young people by 2026, with a focus on breaking down barriers for marginalised young people.
It said the past year had seen 262 secondary schools offered the DofE for the first time, including 98 in the most deprived areas of England; 19 secure settings started running the award, including prisons, young offender institutions, secure units, youth offending and youth intervention teams, with 79 now offering it overall; and the award was offered for the first time in 72 community organisations, 15 further education colleges, 126 centres for young people with additional needs and 36 alternative provision centres, supporting students who cannot attend mainstream school.
The 18-year-old, from Rochdale, said: “I’m helping out as a DofE Leader for Bronze participants, explaining my experience, helping them to understand how to better prepare themselves and supporting them in any way I can.
“I think it’s especially important, as a young Muslim woman, for the people of my community to understand DofE is not just for people of other cultures, that we can get involved as well.
“It’s not just about the camping – it’s about the volunteering, doing physical things and learning new skills which is, I think, a great opportunity for young people to step away from schoolwork and improve on their life skills. University and even employers look for this kind of thing, so DofE is a great chance to help set up things for later on in life.”
Ruth Marvel, chief executive of the DoE Award, said: “Young people are taking up the DofE in record numbers – showing they value opportunities like this more than ever.
“As they find themselves stuck between a brutal past few years and an uncertain future, chances to develop and grow outside the classroom are vital to help level the playing field and give them the skills and capabilities they need to succeed in future.
“Young people need our support more than ever if they’re going to have the same chances previous generations had – which is why we’re determined to keep breaking down barriers to participation and reaching as many young people as possible.”
The award is open to young people aged 14-24, who choose their own activities to complete physical, skills and volunteering sections, an expedition and a residential at Gold level.