Not long ago I wrote about the huge responsibility I felt parenting a teenager. When we first have children we rarely think beyond the first few years and when they suddenly become these lanky teenagers you can feel more than a little underprepared! To be honest I think we’ve done a pretty good job when it comes to raising Archie to be a well mannered and well behaved boy. He might be a pain in the behind when he’s at home but I feel very safe in the knowledge that he is always well behaved and polite when he is at school or in other people’s company! However, going out into the big wide world and fending for himself is a whole different matter altogether. So when I heard about the National Citizen Service (NCS) I thought they might just be our lifeline!
NCS is a programme backed by the government and was established back in 2011. The idea behind the programme is to build a more cohesive, mobile and engaged society by bringing young people from different backgrounds together for a unique shared experience. NCS is designed to help these young people become better individuals and, in turn, better citizens. Open to 16 and 17 year olds in England and Northern Ireland NCS takes place over the school holidays for 2 to 4 weeks and includes all sorts of activities from outdoor team-building exercises, a residential to help learn ‘life-skills’, a community based social action project and an end of project celebration event.
This sounds so good, I would love to go on it myself! We are not actually strangers to NCS as my stepson Harry, who lives in the North East, took part in a residential when he was 16, just after he had finished his GCSEs. At the time he wasn’t too impressed as we had arranged a holiday to Rhodes at the same time and it meant he couldn’t join us, but in the end, he benefited so much more from his NCS programme than he would have done spending 10 days in the sun with us! I asked him this week if he could give me a little quote about his experience and this is what he had to say:
I met some of my closest friends on NCS and I also met my girlfriend there. The first two weeks are class and outward bounds and residential week are great fun. You get to do loads of things that would normally cost a fortune for virtually nothing!
Going through the NCS programme has enabled Harry to learn skills that he perhaps wouldn’t have learnt until much later in life and also given him a whole new network of friends. He is a lovely young man, although I think his parents (and step parents!) would want to take credit for that but it is good to know that he has benefited from his NCS experience. He certainly makes a great cup of tea and that’s good enough for me!!
We are in such an uncertain time in this country both politically and culturally where division is far too prevalent in our society. NCS are striving to create a togetherness that will ensure the next generation will see more similarities in each other than differences.
I am aware that Archie has led a relatively sheltered life when it comes to mixing with children of different backgrounds. He went to primary and middle school in a Northamptonshire market town and it wasn’t until secondary school, when we moved to Northampton, that he experienced youngsters from a much more diverse background, and to be honest he hasn’t always coped well with that. I think taking part in the NCS programme would be invaluable for Archie and really help in his preparation for the big wide world. I know it would give me peace of mind for when he eventually leaves home for university (right now, the thought of that terrifies me!).
To date almost 400,000 young people have taken part in NCS programmes and this year alone more than 100,000 teenagers from different backgrounds will come together in common purpose on NCS. That means one in six of the cohort of 16 year olds will live together, develop skills together and build community projects together. Harry mentioned that the course cost virtually nothing and he wasn’t wrong! It is amazing value for money at just £50 which includes food, accommodation and travel costs! There are also bursaries available on a case by case basis and support provided for young people with additional needs.
There are still places on programmes this Summer. If you have a current year 11 teenager and are worried how you can keep them busy over the Summer or how to prepare them for life after school then got to the NCS website and register your interest. NCS state that no matter what your commitments or Summer holiday plans they will endeavour to get your teen a place on a programme that suits!
I can’t think of a better way to prepare our youngsters for life beyond our four walls. Archie is already looking forward to when he can go in a couple of years’ time and I’ve got it scheduled in my diary to remind myself to get him booked on. If this has sparked your interest then do check out the NCS website where you can find all the information you need about the programme and how it will benefit your teens.