That ambiguous term "character" is something which I believe can’t be taught. Instead, it’s built over time through personal experience, and through our relationships with friends, family and peers. Our school lives form an integral part to the forming of characters – and since 2011 we have had something extra to offer today’s young people: National Citizen Service (NCS).
Open to all 16 and 17 year olds in England and parts of Northern Ireland, the independent NCS gives thousands the opportunity to experience new challenges and learn new skills through team building exercises, outdoor activities and contribution to their communities.
The programme invites young participants to dedicate their time to social action by giving back to the community, spending time away from home and building confidence.
As a recent survey of secondary school teachers commissioned by NCS shows, schools are a great place to encourage this – but 74 per cent of teachers would like their schools to be able to do more.
This is where NCS comes in. It builds on the lessons of responsibility and active citizenship learned at schools and enables young people to get directly involved with social action.
Since it was created in 2011, NCS has gone from strength to strength. Through the experiences that it offers, it has had a direct impact on the skills and confidence of more than 135,000 young people, giving them the opportunity to meet others from different backgrounds.
NCS not only helps young people form their characters, but also forms an integral part of our mission to build a bigger, stronger society – and it is working.
According to an independent survey by Ipsos Mori, an enormous 84 per cent of NCS participants feel more positive about people from different backgrounds and 74 per cent of them are more likely to help out locally in community projects building on the 3 million hours of volunteering that young people already directly contribute through the NCS.
NCS is already the fastest growing youth movement since the Scouts, but we want to take the programme further. We have ambitious plans to guarantee a place on NCS for all young people that want to do it. Moreover, we want NCS to become a rite of passage for all young people across the UK so that they can learn new skills and meet people from different walks of life.
I urge anyone working with young people to support local NCS teams by promoting the programmes to parents and students alike, so that more young people have the opportunity to take on new challenges, participate in their communities and help us build a bigger, stronger society.