Case Study

The best NCS yet: Building skills you simply can’t teach in a classroom

24 Jun 2024
Paula, Alternative Learning Course Director at West Suffolk College is an NCS veteran. Having supported students with special educational needs to attend various iterations of National Citizen Service over the past eight years, she says the four-night residential she’s just attended in North Norfolk was ‘spot on’.

“It was just the right balance of fun and challenge,” Paula says. “We crammed a lot into our five days but had time to settle into being away from home and for the students to develop confidence and new friendships without it becoming overwhelming.”

Paula’s past experience of NCS went a long way in encouraging colleagues, parents, and carers to allow 19 supported learning students to attend the Live It NCS programme. One of three experiences designed to build skills for life and work for 16 to 18 year-olds, Live It centres on adrenaline-fuelled physical activities and survival skills. It was a lifechanging adventure for the Bury St Edmunds teens, many of whom had never stayed away from home before.

“Many of our supported learning pupils dislike change – new surroundings and people can be worrying,” adds Paula. “They specifically need help with their communication and integration skills. Building confidence to take steps out of their comfort zone is vital and I’ve seen time and again how NCS achieves that. The progress students make is invaluable, you simply can’t put a price on it – I would have taken all 100 of our supported students if I’d been able to.” 

Paula attended the Kingswood West Runton activity centre in the Spring of 2024 and, never expecting her students to do something she wouldn’t, wholeheartedly threw herself into activities including caving, abseiling, rock climbing, cart building, archery, a night walk, and zipwire. It earnt her bumps, blisters, and the tremendous respect of her students, one of whom had the revelation that ‘teachers are actually normal people’!

“There was a real sense of camaraderie,” continues Paula. “We got to know our learners so much better by spending five solid days with them. It deepened our understanding of their challenges and issues, and we saw them flourish in so many new ways. Getting curious, taking ownership, following new rules, finding new friendships that will continue at college and beyond anything, the confidence it built up, were things you simply can’t teach in a classroom.

“The centre was comfortable, and the food was good. They activity leaders worked with us to ensure the activities were suitable for our students and gave us time and space to socialise and relax. I would 100% attend Live It again, we’ve got lots of students interested in a future trip.”  

Recommended Articles