Some months ago I was asked to be a patron of the National Citizen Service. I agreed without hesitation in the absolute conviction that this is a fantastic opportunity for young people. Students take part in a range of activities outside of term time, starting with an outdoor adventure experience away from home meeting young people from other schools and backgrounds. They then live away from home in university accommodation, catering for themselves, learning various skills and attending training which they then put into practice in a social action project. More than 130,000 young people have already taken part and that number is set to double in the future.
So often discussion about education slips back into discussion about examinations and school accountability or detail about what should be within the maths or English curriculum. In the context of so many education reforms and external pressures a vision for a broader education sometimes gets lower profile than it should.
Yet we all know that a good education is about so much more than a narrow, instrumental curriculum. We all know that a good education, which the best schools provide, offers a broad range of opportunities for young people to develop those skills, habits of mind, qualities and characteristics that enable them to be ‘grounded and rounded’. Those schools seek to develop people who are determined, optimistic and emotionally intelligent; people who demonstrate grit, resilience, curiosity, enthusiasm, creativity, respect, sensitivity and much more.
And of course it makes them so much more employable. Employers tell me consistently that they want people who can approach problems confidently, who can communicate clearly and who have practical skills, as well as qualifications. It is not a question of either or, but one of both.
Earlier this week I had the privilege of addressing more than 100 headteachers who are enthusiastically encouraging their students to take part in the National Citizen Service at an event in the Speaker’s House. I didn’t need to sell the benefits of the programme to the school leaders in this audience, or the graduates of the programme who told me how much it had helped them. However, the school leaders did confirm my view that it is not always easy for schools to find out about really good things. They get bombarded with marketing from the less good things or the information gets lost somewhere in the system.
Many schools still don’t know about this great opportunity for their students, which is a shame, as there are some really attractive aspects of this programme. Firstly, there is no work involved for the school and it doesn’t cost the school anything. Even the cost to young people is minimal or covered by a bursary. It doesn’t compete with or undermine anything else schools are doing, but runs alongside those things. You don’t have to worry about health and safety, safeguarding and risk assessments – all that is taken care of. The list goes on, but you get the idea. This is not only great for the young people that take part but also for the school’s reputation and standing in the community. It is a real opportunity to make a difference; it can only impact positively on motivation and academic achievement.
If your students are not yet aware of this programme please tell them about it. We owe it to our young people to give them access to this great programme.
Further details can be found at http://ncsyes.co.uk or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org