A couple of years ago now, we saw an advert for the NCS – the National Citizen Service. We’d never heard of it before, but we loved the look of it, and when we discussed it with our oldest (who was 16 at the time) he was absolutely up for it. Sadly, his health took a back slide, and we just couldn’t be sure he was ready for a summer of adventure; but as our younger kids come to the right age, we’ll be encouraging them to sign up; it’s such a brilliant scheme.
And don’t be thinking this is going to be some super-expensive activity holiday. No no no.
NCS is so very much more than that – and thanks to government backing, the most you’ll ever pay for this potentially life-changing experience is £50 – and this could be less (or even free) depending on your circumstances and local NCS provider.
Put simply, NCS is a chance for teenagers to come together and achieve amazing things; both for their community, and for themselves. It’s open to 16 and 17 year-olds across England and Northern Ireland, and this year more than 100,000 teenagers from different backgrounds will come together through the NCS. That means one in six of the cohort of 16 year olds will live together, develop skills together and build community projects together.
The two to four week programme (which takes place in school holidays) is based around four phases – outdoor team-building exercises, a residential for participants to learn ‘life skills’, a community-based social action project and an end of programme celebration event.
Each phase comes with its own challenges and rewards, requiring new skills and a level of teamwork which cements together young people from different backgrounds in a unique shared experience. NCS helps them to become better individuals – and in turn better citizens.
Phase one – Challenge yourself.
From the outset, this looks like the most exciting part of the scheme – it’s that fantastic adventure experience, where you get to try your hand (or feet) at rock climbing, canoeing, hiking and archery. Along the way, even the most nervous teenager will learn to conquer their fears, and will always hold their head high when they remember how they totally bossed abseiling off a cliff in the end.
This is the Phase in which they meet their team; living with a group of 12-15 new people who are surely destined to become life long friends through their shared experiences over one incredible summer.
And just for this part alone, the £50 is amazing value; where else could you get a week’s residential adventure activity trip for £50. No. Exactly.
Phase 2 – Life Skills
Now’s their chance to discover something new! Back with their group in a uni-style environment, this is where the teens develop life skills like confidence, leadership and communication (oh, and aside from the personal growth, the NCS looks amazing on a CV or UCAS personal statement!).
On this phase the teens could be meeting organisations, leaders from within their local community, or simply exploring a hidden passion for photography or football coaching.
Phase 3 – Social Action
This is the point at which it all comes together – the fun and inspiration from the first two phases means your teen is ready with their team to plan and deliver their very own social action project. Up and down the country, teams of teenagers really are making a difference to the lives of the people around them, from working in a community garden to baking cakes with the elderly; they pick it, plan it and just go do it, fundraising along the way.
Phase 4 – Celebrate!
The end is actually just the beginning!Coming back together, the teams enjoy a celebration party – gaining their certificates, reflecting on the challenges and sharing the memories… and to become part of the bigger NCS family. Many go on to more volunteering opportunities and apprenticeships (plus there’s amazing discounts and events!).
NCS was established to help build a more cohesive, mobile and engaged society – sign up your Yr 11 teenager for this once in a lifetime experience this summer – instead of spending their summer in bed and on their computer, give your teen the chance of a summer of adventure; to build their confidence, make new friends and learn life skills that simply can’t be taught in a classroom.
Not sure you can fit it in this year? Go ahead and register for further information anyway. No matter what your commitments or summer holiday plans, NCS will try to get your teen a spot on a programme at a time that suits you.
There are still places available for Year 11s to take part in this once in a lifetime opportunity this summer. To sign up now, click here to go to the NCS website.