David Cameron hails Sprowston school scheme

Sarah HallThe example of Norwich schoolchildren was hailed by Conservative leader David Cameron as he launched plans for a National Citizen Service for young people.Sarah Hall

The example of Norwich schoolchildren was hailed by Conservative leader David Cameron as he launched plans for a National Citizen Service for young people.

After five visits to Norwich North in last year's by-election, Mr Cameron flew to the city in a private plane to the city to visit Sprowston Community High School.

He was there to see the work being done by an independent charity called SkillForce, which has been working with Sprowston students aged 14 to 16.

Thirty-three youngsters had given up their Easter holidays in order to complete an intensive eight-day Waypoint course - involving team building tasks, designing campaigns, discussing youth issues and environmental challenges.

Mr Cameron watched the youngsters taking part in one of the tasks - which was to work as a team to cross 'shark-infested' waters.

The courses aim to give young people more confidence and to improve their study skills, while helping them get onto further education courses.

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More than three quarters of the Skill Force instructors have an Armed Forces background and Mr Cameron was visiting because of the launch of his idea of a National Citizen Service to give young people the chance to take part in community work and provide a 'rite of passage' into adulthood.

Mr Cameron said: 'There is a great yearning for things like this. You can see the enthusiasm for the children and it's clearly fun as they have given up their Easter holidays.'

At a launch in London earlier in the day, Mr Cameron said the offer of two-month summer social action activities such as looking after the elderly as a cure for the 'national scandal of all this wasted promise'.

He was joined on stage there by Oscar-winning actor Sir Michael Caine, who said the scheme would provide an opportunity to 'save young people and give them a chance in society'.

The scheme would initially be voluntary, but Mr Cameron set the goal of eventually ensuring that all 16-year-olds take part in a two-month residential National Citizen Service (NCS) course.

Andrew John, head teacher of Sprowston Community High School, said of the SkillForce programme: 'It has helped improve the students' self-esteem and taught them about working as a team.

'At the end of it they are a lot more positive and a lot more enthusiastic about their studies. There is a risk at that age that they can be in limbo about what they want to do, but we are now seeing more students than ever wanting to come to sixth form.'

On the visit of David Cameron he said: 'It is a great opportunity for our students to be proud of their school and I think that is lovely.'

Chloe Smith, who hopes to retain the Norwich North seat for the Conservatives, said it was good to see Mr Cameron again so soon into the election campaign and praised the scheme at Sprowston.

She said: 'I think it would be excellent to see such schemes take place much more widely and it is particularly important to look for a national programme which gives people the chance to give something back to society.'

What do you think of the idea of a National Citizen Service? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk