The following has been extracted from https://www.dofe.org/about/.
HRH The Duke of Edinburgh first considered the idea of a national programme to support young people's development the request of his inspiring former headmaster, Kurt Hahn. After WW2, His Royal Highness wanted to bridge the gap between leaving formal education at 15 and entering into National Service at 18. In particular, could acquire self-confidence and a sense of purpose for the future.
Best known for leading the successful assault on Mount Everest in 1953, Sir John Hunt (later Lord Hunt) was its first leader, A pilot for The Duke of Edinburgh's Award was launched in February 1956, initially with four sections; Rescue and Public Service, Expeditions, Pursuits and Projects, and Fitness. By 1980, those sections had evolved into
Volunteering, Physical, Skills and Expedition, with an additional Residential section at Gold level.
The scheme has become very popular over time, including internationally in over 130 countries and territories. In the UK in 2019/20, nearly 300,000 young people started a DofE programme and a record 159,000 Awards were achieved through schools, colleges, universities, youth clubs, businesses, housing associations, young offender institutions, voluntary organisations and more.