National Citizen Service (NCS)

Last updated
Last verified

NCS is offered to all young people aged 15 – 17 across England, irrespective of background or experience. To date, over 275,000 young people have taken part in NCS.

There are ambitious expansion plans to extend the reach of the programme to 60% of teenagers by 2020.  


NCS brings 15 – 17 year olds together from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, to take part in a four week programme. During NCS, participants learn new skills for work and life, and work together to improve their local communities.

NCS’ wider social purpose is threefold:

  1. Social cohesion. Fostering understanding between young people of all backgrounds.
  2. Social engagement. Engaging young people in social action in their communities, and building their understanding of their role as citizens in society.
  3. Social mobility. Building essential skills for life and work, investing in future talent.
Education context

At NCS we prize the education of the individual young people we serve just as much as our social outcomes.

However, NCS is less an academic programme than a chance to ‘learn the lessons you can’t learn in school’. As employers increasingly demand more than just academic results, NCS helps to develop confidence, as well as leadership and teamwork skills.

Our ethos centres around young people having the confidence to take advantage of new opportunities, reflected in our tagline ‘just say yes’.

Nine out of ten young people complete NCS feeling they’ve learnt important skills for the future, and three in four feel more confident about getting a job.

Awarding providers
  • National Citizen Service (NCS)

NCS is delivered by a network of over 300 regional and local delivery providers in England. The NCS Trust is the commissioning body which oversees the content and quality of the programme being delivered.

NCS is structured over three phases:

  • During phase 1, young people stay away from home and undertake a series of outdoor-based activities where they take on new challenges, make new friends and develop their confidence.
  • In phase 2, participants live away from home in university-style accommodation, build their independence and learn essential life-skills (often cooking and budgeting for themselves), and find out more about the needs of their local communities.
  • In phase 3, participants devise and deliver a 30-hour social action project designed to tackle an issue they have observed in their local community. During this phase, they must work as a team with clear roles, and are required to pitch their idea to a panel to secure approval and project funding, replicating what would be expected in the ‘real’ business world.
Subject areas

All participants will have the opportunity on the programme to experience the following:

  • Living away from home
  • Meeting new people
  • Outdoor learning environments
  • Developing, presenting, and implementing a social action strategy

They also have the opportunity to develop the following key skills for work and life:

  • Teamwork
  • Leadership
  • Resilience
  • Written and verbal communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Planning

NCS does not have ‘levels’ equivalent to any academic qualification, instead taking place in school holidays when young people are in Year 11 or Year 12.

To complete the programme, young people must take part in all aspects of the curriculum, and attend a ‘graduation’ where they are awarded a certificate.


NCS is ungraded. In order to graduate, minimum attendance requirements are set in all phases to ensure that young people will have adequately covered the majority of the course content.


There is no formal assessment carried out on young people’s achievements during the programme, although there is an expectation that programme participants will all have an opportunity to present, lead and/or work as part of a team, design and deliver a 30-hour social action project, and live away from home.

Resit arrangements

Not applicable.

NCS is a once in a lifetime opportunity for young people who must undertake the programme when they are aged 15 – 17.

In circumstances where young people have specific educational needs, they may be eligible until the age of 25 (assessed on a case-by-case basis).

Programme size

Summer NCS participants spend five days and four nights undertaking phase 1 in a residential outward bound facility, and five days and four nights in residential campus-style accommodation completing phase 2. On the slightly shorter spring and autumn programmes, participants spending four days and three nights at a residential outward bound facility for phase 1, and three non-residential days completing phase 2.

For phase 3, participants on all three seasonal programmes will devote 30 hours of their time to devising, planning, fundraising for, and delivering a social action project to tackle an issue their team has observed in their local community.

Key issues for UK HE admissions

Despite social mixing being a key indicator of success in higher education, the workplace, and life in general, a study by KCL found that over 86% of teenagers are at least sometimes nervous about meeting people from different backgrounds to their own. NCS gives young people the opportunity to connect and work with new people from a range of different backgrounds.

Consequently, the 2014 independent evaluation of the programme by Ipsos MORI showed that 8 out of 10 respondents felt more positively towards people from different backgrounds after they had completed NCS:

This revised mindset and confidence meeting new people stands NCS graduates in a good position to make friends and collaborate with new people in college and higher education environments.

Timing of assessments and results

Young people aged 16 – 17 can complete the programme during spring, autumn or summer holidays.

Every young person who successfully completes the programme will graduate.

Qualification dates notes

This is award is current.

Certification information

When young people graduate from NCS, they receive a certificate signed by the Prime Minister stating the year in which they completed the programme. Minimum attendance requirements are set in all phases to ensure that young people will have adequately covered the course content.

Progression information

Once a young person has graduated from the NCS programme they are able to access an online portal which hosts a range of opportunities offered by providers, NCS Trust and our partners. These relate to social action, training, apprenticeships/work placements, and other opportunities to enrich and support young people’s growth.

Each year graduates are invited to join NCS leaders, which is a residential programme that brings together 120 NCS graduates from across the country. The programme aims to recognise and reward the most engaged NCS participants, giving them further opportunities to develop key skills.

NCS leaders direct and manage social actions projects in their region, take an active role on their regional youth board, work closely with NCS providers, and participate in opportunities to engage the media and other stakeholders (such as Government), where needed.

Further information

Please contact NCS Trust for further details: