Case Study

The trip of a lifetime

29 Apr 2024
National Citizen Service (NCS) is an exciting, challenging, and life-affirming away from home funfest for Year 11 school leavers. It’s energetic, thought-provoking, and entertaining in equal measure; a genuine and defining coming-of-age experience.

So what about when you’re a 39-year-old teaching assistant looking after the needs of a group of Islamic girls, one of whom is disabled, and managing your own lower back condition? Well, as Shabana Kauser from Rochdale’s Islamic Academy for Girls found out, it’s no different at all!

Shabana accompanied girls from her school, with another teacher, on a five-day summer NCS residential, run by Ingeus at the Kingswood Dearne Valley outdoor activity centre in South Yorkshire. Providing one to one support for a disabled student, and supervising excited, post-exam teens away from home for the first time, Shabana had her work cut out. On a personal level, she was also a little wary:

“I didn’t have the opportunity to go on a residential trip as a girl and really didn’t think some of the outdoor activities would be my thing,” confesses Shabana. “I’m not very outdoorsy and wasn’t sure my back condition would allow for some of the activities, but I wanted to show the girls what was possible. I threw myself into it, did every activity, and absolutely loved it. It massively boosted my own confidence and I’m planning some glamping trips with my own family now.”

Shabana and the girls tried a variety of fun challenges from archery and high ropes to canoeing and a fly on the zip line. Away from the action, they got mindful, creative, and debated topical issues – all part of the mix on NCS’s residential adventures. The accommodation and activities accommodated the needs of Shabana’s disabled student and the cultural considerations of girls coming from an Islamic faith school, as Shabana describes:

“The staff were absolutely fantastic, so considerate of our needs. We had dedicated space for prayers, worked in female groups, with female leaders and there was lots of vegetarian and other appropriate food. Working in our own areas meant the girls were confident to not wear their hijabs and so could really get into the physical activities and properly enjoy themselves. That’s not to say we didn’t mix with other young people there though, there was lots of chat and walks with girls from other schools; other cultures and backgrounds.”

This was the first time that students from Rochdale Islamic Academy for Girls (RIAG) had participated in NCS, but it certainly wasn’t the last. Some of the girls enjoyed their trip so much that they returned to Kingswood later in the summer and Shabana has displays of their time away in the school hall to entice next year’s leavers. Recognising the positive impact it had on the students, the school is also considering residential trips for Year 9 and 10 girls.

“I really saw the girls shine on NCS – as did I,” concludes Shabana. “It challenged us to become more confident, work as a team, and make new friends. We all learned new skills and a lot about ourselves.

“Girls from our culture don’t always have the opportunity to stay away from home or other family members, and Covid made that even more difficult. NCS offered a safe space for us all to try new things. It was an experience that will last a lifetime.”

NCS is a government backed experience open to all 15 and 17-year olds in England. For £95, with bursaries available, young people spend four nights away from home learning skills for life in a fun, supported environment. NCS residentials are delivered by Ingeus, in partnership with the Youth Hostel Association and a range of youth services partners. National Citizen Service (NCS) | Ingeus

Watch Shabana's story


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