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Live webchat with Big Society Minister Nick Hurd MP

(115 Posts)
KatieMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 07-Mar-12 15:59:48


We're pleased to welcome Nick Hurd MP, Minister for Civil Society, for a webchat on the government's National Citizen Service on Thursday 8th March from 1pm- 2pm. Also joining us will be 16-year-old Kiran Dhingra-Smith from Stratford, London, who recently completed the programme with National Citizen Service Provider the Football League Trust.

The National Citizen Service aims to aims to encourage integration of young people from diverse backgrounds helping them learn new life skills - and both our guests are looking forward to answering your questions on the programme.

Do post your question live on Thursday, but as ever, if you're not able to join us - please do post away below.



swallowedAfly Fri 09-Mar-12 23:16:44

but it's not about saying school is boring and pointless or dull - who has said that? but at 16 it's good to something genuinely new and unblemished and have a chance to develop new and unblemished, by your past, relationships.

i do agree that this can seem a bit like playing with the icing when the cake is burning in the over - in the sense of increased fees, scrapping of the ema, screwing surestart etc.

i still like the idea of giving young people the chance to have an experience that they wouldn't otherwise, to meet people and get involved with a group of equals to work together and learn about themselves, group dynamics, problem solving etc. it's a way to make kids see a bigger world of more options and possibilities that many don't get the chance for (i'm thinking those who don't get to go to university).

dollymixtures Fri 09-Mar-12 14:20:16

Exactly PBB. There's also some irony in NH's response at 14.03, saying that society shouldn't hand responsibility to govt when this appears to be a prime example of govt taking on a responsibilty that it doesnt need to whilst ignoring those areas that absolutely are within its remit.

PostBellumBugsy Fri 09-Mar-12 14:05:11

I don't have a problem with the NCS, but it is a very short programme & it is hard to see quite what difference it will make to the long-term outcomes of a 16 year old. I also can't quite understand why the Government think they need to develop their own programme when well proven schemes already exist.
The Duke of Edinburgh's Award charity runs a far more comprehensive programme up & down the country for over 300,000 young people every year. It is delivered entirely by volunteers and costs the tax payer nothing. It has been running since 1956 and has a proven benefit to those who take part.
How about the Scouts with over 400,000 taking part and Girl Guides with about half a million participants?
Three huge charities delivering amazing youth work programmes with a proven benefit. Why couldn't the Government have supported those, put some money behind recruiting & training more volunteers to increase delivery, rather than a completely different scheme?

dollymixtures Fri 09-Mar-12 13:45:39

It just sounds like a reinvention of the wheel, and at a time when we're told there's no money for luxuries like DV support or legal aid, one has to question why there is funding available for this, or why they aren't using established knowledge bases like schools to deliver it. I suspect it's because this govt don't actually trust teachers

<thinks about who the education minister is>

<shoots self in head>

Jenski Fri 09-Mar-12 12:29:43

Thanks Dollymixtures smile - I'm not usually good at explaining how I'm thinking. And, I agree with you, if the image of school is 'dull/boring', the image of school needs to change. Opportunities need to be available at school, which is much more accessible than the possibility of an application being accepted for a 2 week program (which may or may not be good depending on your geographical location).

dollymixtures Fri 09-Mar-12 10:42:20

Jenski - you've articulated what I've been thinking perfectly, thanks very much grin.

SAF - I do see what you're saying however I didn't envisage teachers providing this but facilitating the programme much as public schools do. I think the fact that some kids are so turned off school and the experience of learning there is terribly sad and not something that should be exacerbated by saying "yeah we know school is boring and pointless, here try this new exciting thing that is nothing to do with it." Why can't we make schooling an exciting thing?

swallowedAfly Fri 09-Mar-12 09:51:48

i think those pupils are more likely to do it if it is not connected to the school and their history with it.

if it is a positive experience then it will get a great reputation and people will want to do it - as kiran said people she knew regretted not doing it when they heard how much she enjoyed and saw what others got out of it.

Jenski Fri 09-Mar-12 09:09:35

Swallowfly - there is a vacancy section on the National Citizen website - very poorly paid though (compared to teaching anyway).

I too see that this can be a beneficial program, as long as the opportunities are equal across the country. From what I can see from the participating organisations, there are very few in certain parts of the country (particularly these further from London). Without the backup of the community to which they return to, there is not going to be any follow up to the 2 weeks.

I don't really agree with you when it comes to teachers. I know many that have extremely positive relationships with their pupils, and that they can and do provide pupils with the 'tools' required to go forward in their lives in an informed, confident way. I think schools should be at the core of communities, and therefore links with charities and the voluntary sector should be happening as a matter of course.

Public schools often do this, in the form of a 'community service' where pupils visit and support elderly vulnerable people, by visiting and doing basic chores for them. The idea that young people are unable to make good decisions without a government program shows that there is something lacking in the secondary school curriculum. I think motivational specialists should be in secondary schools (either as visitors or teachers).

My worry is that the type of pupils who would apply for this program, would be the tye of pupil that would not necessarily need it, although it would look good on a CV. I'm not sure that it would reach the ones that are suffering through deprivation and poverty in some of the more needy areas of the country (although if it did it may well inspire them). Presumably it would need parental support too, which may not always be easy.

swallowedAfly Fri 09-Mar-12 07:53:12

this is actually something i'd like to get involved with. i want to be involved with mental health education - as in a kind of immunisation programme where you learn about self esteem, personal development, problem solving, self care, positive relationships and give them the basic skills of cbt, relaxation, self awareness etc. would love to see that incorporated.

give us a job someone!!

swallowedAfly Fri 09-Mar-12 07:48:07

as an ex secondary school teacher i'd say no this couldn't be successfully done in school by teachers. i agree with what kiran said and the wanting to get away from school but it's also more than that.

the majority of teachers i've worked with would just not have the kind of skills set and relationship with young people to do this let alone the time and energy. kids need fresh eyes for this - people without already fixed ideas about them as individuals and as a group and who are very 'real life' based rather than institutionalised as many teachers kind of are.

you don't need the roles and dynamics of student/teacher and the dynamics and assumptions of those roles in something like this. it has to be fresh and introduce kids to new people from very different backgrounds than they are used to seeing in order to broaden their horizons and give them a bit of a boost that there is more out there than school and more diverse directions adults can go in than those which have been modeled to them in school. they also need to feel like they're being judged on what they do there and then without pre-conceptions and 'history' - re a fresh start. school can't give that.

i'm surprised to say that this scheme sounds good and it would be great to offer this to all kids at this stage of their lives. for those continuing with education it gives them some sense of what they're studying for and what they might want to do later and therefore hopefully makes their future studies and the work they need to do to get to where they want to be. the boost in maturity and confidence would aid their studies. for those who aren't going on to study more it can be a way in to gaining some skills and involvement so they don't just drift off from society at that point and for some of those it will lead to work or to going back to studies to get skills they need for something they've decided they want to do.

it would definitely need to continue to mix kids up though - as in from all over the place rather than their usual peer group which is another good reason it couldn't be done by schools. meeting and having to 'work' in a new group under different circumstances than you are used to (school) has massive developmental benefits - it is challenging and makes you grow rather than just rely on old dynamics.

dollymixtures Thu 08-Mar-12 14:36:19

Absolutely Jenski. Our secondary school has extensive links with local charities and organisations and virtually every pupil gets involved, partly because its given time within the curriculum. For example, A-level PE students run sports clubs for our primary school as part of their lesson time.

FWIW a lot of the team building stuff is already offered by public schools, what a shame our state schools don't have the funding to offer it too.

What I don't see is how this programme offers anything new. Motivated and able people like Kiran will always find opportunities for themselves whether its DOE, operation Raleigh, scout leading, etc. But let's be honest they aren't the ones we need to worry about are they?

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Thu 08-Mar-12 14:16:44

Thanks for telling us about the programme - I hadn't heard about it before.

Am now hoping my two DCs smile will be able to take part in it in a few years time !

Jenski Thu 08-Mar-12 14:16:02

Thanks for the reply to my previous question too.

In response, I am a big believer in 'People' power, but know that there are many people who are very unhappy at the moment, due to loss of earnings, high energy prices, watching the news, banker bonuses etc... this causes a feeling of powerlessness that can cause lethargy and apathy. Many of these people are parents/grandparents and they feel they have seen it all before!

Jenski Thu 08-Mar-12 14:13:57

I was thinking more that this could be part of the curriculum. There are many children in school who would benefit from this within their whole time at secondary school (so not just two weeks) where they could link with local community projects in a more formal way and be rewarded for their efforts.

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Thu 08-Mar-12 14:13:03

Or should that be The duchess of Cambridge !

NickHurdMP Thu 08-Mar-12 14:12:35

I have run out of time!. Very conscious that I have not answered all the questions which is partly down to my slow typing. I will do my best to answer the other questions later on and Mumsnet have kindly offered to post them.

Thanks for having me and for your interest in NCS: it is still at pilot stage but we are very excited about it , and the vast majority of the young people and parents I spoke to said it was a great use of time post GCSEs.

Signing off

KiranDhingraSmith Thu 08-Mar-12 14:12:05

Hi again guys,
I'm actually writing this here now to say bye, its been really fun being on mumsnet and well thank you for having me and giving me questions to answer grin

Take care

dollymixtures Thu 08-Mar-12 14:11:52

I've got to admit to not being wild about my tax being used to enable 'rich public school kids' to see the wider world hmm. I might be wrong but I would think they have enough access to opportunity without being handed more at a time when libraries are being shut, elderly people are choosing between heat and food, etc, etc

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Thu 08-Mar-12 14:11:37

We need Kate Middleton to champion the Guides and not just the Scouts !!

LineRunner Thu 08-Mar-12 14:11:30

I definitely agree with Kiran on that one. My daughter's school is not a place she's want to spend a summer at age 16.

JugglingWithTangentialOranges Thu 08-Mar-12 14:10:21

I'm sure it's a similar situation within the Guide movement - my daughter's group is currently looking for new leaders in order to continue for example.

KiranDhingraSmith Thu 08-Mar-12 14:09:01


Do you think the money for this project would be better handed to schools, who know their pupils and therefore can provide opportunities for all?

Personally I dont think so, as you want to get away from school!
And if you've just finished your GCSE exams there's nothing keeping you there anymore , the summer holidays are yours! Because until college you can't really do anything that much, thats why i think this is good because it gives you different oppurtunities which frankly a secondary school wouldnt be able to give you and definitly wouldn't give the same impact as from a new place.

Merrylegs Thu 08-Mar-12 14:08:40

Please do take it up! Norfolk was divided into four areas -(North, South, East and West actually!) Only one area was half way interested - the rest were useless. There were meant to be four different schemes - in the end they were amalgamated into one, and most of the kids came from one particular high school - they obviously had a good liason person.

Interestingly enough, when I dropped my son off for the first week of the scheme, the organiser said they had just had a phone call from a NCS in East London asking if they could send a group of their young people to Norfolk for the week as their scheme had collapsed somehow. They were going to put these kids on a train to Norwich that day! It was a real mess tbh.

(I am glad you had a good experience, Kiran. That's exactly the kind of thing my 16 year old was looking for but it didn't happen here.)

NickHurdMP Thu 08-Mar-12 14:08:22

By the way if anyone wants more information on NCS , the new website is

NickHurdMP Thu 08-Mar-12 14:07:18


Will you be supporting other similar programmes, such as the Guide and Scout movements, the DofE scheme etc. ?

Hi JugglingWithTangentialOranges

Good point. Interestingly very few of the young people who took part last year had got involved with any of the other programmes. So I think there is an opportunity here. NCS can light a spark in a young person which then needs nurturing. I am very keen that we connect NCS graduates with the opportunity to get involved in other programmes. So for example there are 30,000 kids waiting to get onto Scouts : they cant because there are not enough leaders. I hope that some NCS graduates will be motivated to become young Scout leaders

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