National Citizen Service


The National Citizen Service is a government-backed youth citizenship programme that builds the skills and confidence of 16 and 17-year-olds. Laura Gibbon explains.

In 2011, the National Citizen Service (NCS) was created to provide young people with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience new challenges and learn new skills through team-building exercises and outdoor activities, while making new friends and contributing to their community.

Since its launch, the NCS has seen more than 60,000 young people graduate from the programme and donate more than 1.5 million hours of their time to social action projects across England. When we speak to our graduates and their teachers, it is clear that taking part in the programme has had a profound influence on many of their lives. 

What is NCS?

NCS is open to all 16 and 17-year-olds in England and parts of Northern Ireland and takes place outside of school time during the spring, summer and autumn holidays.

Our programmes take the form of a two or three-week full-time experience including time spent away from home and an additional 30 hours of time delivering a social action project to address a local need and give back to the community. 

Government backing means that there is no cost to schools whatsoever, and participants pay no more than £50 each. We make every effort to ensure that the programme is accessible to all young people within this age group, with bursaries available on a case-by-case basis, and support provided for those with additional needs. 

The programme is quality-assured both locally and nationally and delivered across England by a network of youth and community organisations.

In 2014, participants can look forward to:

  • A four-day residential with a wide range of team-building outdoor activities such as water-rafting and rock-climbing.

  • A four-day residential on a local university campus working in the same team to learn skills for work and life, such as budgeting, cooking and first aid, while meeting with local businesses and social leaders from the community.

  • Based back at home but still working in the same group, three days will be spent planning a social action project to benefit the local community and pitching for funding.

  • Thirty hours worth of team-work spent across evenings and weekends bringing the project to life before graduating together.

Schools have found that the social action projects delivered by participants have helped to raise the profile of their school locally, too.

A recent survey of secondary school teachers commissioned by the NCS found that while almost all respondents (98 per cent) thought that schools were a good place to encourage children to become responsible and active citizens, 74 per cent would like their schools be able to do more to support children getting involved in social action and to develop their skills as active citizens.

The outcomes

The NCS can also play a role in demonstrating to Ofsted your school’s provision to the social development of your students, and the programme is recognised by UCAS, helping young people frame their skills and experiences for interviews and university applications.

The benefits of participating in NCS have also been verified by external research: 73 per cent of students taking part in the programme felt more confident about getting a job as a result. In terms of team-work, 95 per cent felt they had a chance to get to know people they wouldn’t normally mix with and 92 per cent agreed it had given them the chance to develop skills that would be useful in the future.

Claire Smith, curriculum leader of the Citizenship Department at Tollbar Academy in Grimsby, said: “The students that have come back into our 6th form have gained in confidence. They’re so excited to talk about it and they’re really keen to promote (NCS) with next year’s year 11 students.”

Principal of Tollbar Academy, Stephen Moon, added: “They develop skills, lots of different skills that are very useful. They can organise things, they can work in groups, and they develop leadership skills. They are all transferable skills, so it’s really beneficial.”

Meanwhile, Stuart Jackman, director of 6th form at The Forest School in Wokingham discussed one particular student of his who took part in NCS last year: “He’s a different student. He’s come back with ultimate confidence, he wants to try things, and simply wants to get involved. He’s suddenly up, smiling, working.”

  • Laura Gibbon is the school and college engagement lead at the NCS Trust.

Further information
To learn more or to leave your details for a local NCS provider to get in touch with you, visit

CAPTION: Getting involved: (from top) NCS participants celebrate successfully completing a gorge walk in Eskdale in the Lake District; young people taking part in NCS learning how to build a functioning raft


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