NCSNational Citizen Service (NCS), the government backed youth citizenship programme, has selected Harrow Way Community School to be one of their Champion Schools for 2014.

As a Champion School Harrow Way fully embraces the NCS into their ethos. Year 11 students can join the programme which has been designed to help young people build skills for work and life, take on new challenges and meet new friends.

Headteacher Michael Serridge said: “We fully support any initiative which encourages our students to expand their horizons, learn new skills and enrich their lives. The NCS can only be a very positive experience and feedback from last year’s participants was that it was hugely rewarding and for some, quite life-changing. I am hoping that once again large numbers from our Year 11 will take part in the scheme and reap the immediate benefit but the longer term rewards as well.”

In 2013, NCS engaged 40,000 young people and Harrow Way students will join an expected 65,000 in 2014 also looking to take part in different outdoor activities, develop new skills, gain greater understanding and contribute positively in the local community. The programme itself is made up of four phases that will develop student leadership, teamwork and communication skills. These are put into practice when they are given the opportunity to create a project they really care about and bring to life in the Andover community. Students work in a team of 12-15 people alongside a mentor who will point them all in the right direction. After graduation, the students will all become a member of the NCS graduate scheme.

Last year, for the social action project the Harrow Way students worked with Andover Trees United – a local charity responsible for planting and managing a small area of new woodland in Andover. The students spent time on site learning to weave hazel to form walls for what would become a semi permanent outdoor classroom. Working alongside professional craftsman the students designed and built the structure. Andover Tree’s also asked the students to come up with an innovative way to raise the profile of the charity and to raise funds. With this brief in mind the students decided to stage a ‘flash mob’ on a busy Saturday in Andover town centre as a means of grabbing peoples’ attention before handing out leaflets and collecting donations.

Recognising their hard work and effort the students were privileged to be given the responsibility of collecting a Hampshire wide environmental award on behalf of all the young people across Andover involved in the Andover Trees United project.

Former Harrow Way student Jordan Simcox took part in last year’s NCS and says: “My overall experience of NCS was amazing, I made so many new friends, learnt so many new skills and learnt new activities. I tried everything that there was even if I did not feel confident in doing it. NCS has increased my self-confidence. My favourite part of the whole experience was the meeting of new people and trying out new activities. I feel NCS has benefited me because I have learnt new skills, gained a new experience and have a chance of getting a job out of it.” Jordan is now employed as an activity leader at Andover Leisure Centre and is a member of Andover Town Youth Council.

Harrow Way has already launched the programme with Pat Salmon (Director at Mountbatten) and James Blyth (Programme lead for Valley Leisure) meeting all year 11 students to promote the benefits of participation. Members of staff are fully behind the scheme and it seems their efforts are working as already more than 20 young people have signed up. “It all starts at yes…yes to adventure, yes to your future, yes to making a difference!” said James.

The NCS believes that given the respect, tools and opportunity, young people can change the world around them. Champion Schools, such as Harrow Way, are those that embrace NCS into their ethos by strongly encouraging students to be involved in NCS by taking a strong role in promoting the programme to students, parents and teachers.

There are longer term benefits to taking part in the scheme. For students looking to ultimately progress on to university – UCAS recognise NCS as an extra-curricular activities which can demonstrate skills on UCAS application forms.