Do you remember sitting your GCSE's and how you felt at the time?  Staff from the NCS team were asked that question by graduates from their National Citizen Service programme and decided to put themselves to the test.

Alongside adult volunteers from a host of youth services across Southampton, they completed their Maths, Biology and English Literature papers in one day during half term. The volunteers included Hayden Collins, Youth Participation officer from Southampton City Council, Sophie Ford from The Hub at the University of Southampton, Rebecca Kinge from Southampton Healthwatch and Scott Willis from support charity, Yellow Door.  Members of the NCS summer staff team Kayleigh Littlemore and Casey Taylor.  Debbie Burns, Deputy Chief Executive of Youth Options recalled how she first sat her exams in 1983 and to now complete the higher paper maths GCSE was a real challenge. 

The NCS team visit every secondary school across the city to let year 11 pupils know the benefits of the 4-week self-development summer experience NCS can provide.  As part of this, they offer workshops in memory and learning techniques for revision to schools and it was from this that the idea developed. 

The Youth Options NCS team run a Local Youth Board made up of young people who have already completed the summer programme & want to continue their volunteering and self-development opportunities.  A youth board member challenged NCS Engagement Officer, Shane Wheeler-Osman to complete a maths GCSE question. Shane had completed his exams 10 years previously as a student of Redbridge Community College.  He was successful in his maths exam and achieved a B grade.  He applied the same techniques that he was taught to the 2018 exam question and found himself to be 4.5 million off the correct answer.  This showed the team that techniques have changed and the pressure to achieve has increased for the generation undertaking their exams today.  

The National Citizen Service Trust completed a piece of research in 2017 called the ’Youth Report-life as a teen in 2017’. This established that school anxiety was one of the top issues facing teenagers today.  77% of students felt overwhelmed by school work and exams.  88% of young people asked had worried about failing their exams and the impact this may have on their future.   These were similar to statements that the NCS team were hearing from students in Southampton schools.

  Luke Brown, NCS Engagement Officer noted that; "to support young people going through exam stresses in the best possible way, we felt it was important to experience the same conditions that they are placed under. Rather than just telling them that revising by chunking information and not cramming the night before is the best technique, I wanted to try this out for myself.  Therefore, I recreated these conditions for my exam.  I only revised the night before and found the exam much harder than I thought.  If I were to do it again, I would draw up that revision timetable recommended by schools and in our memory workshop"

Other team members also tested out different conditions that contradicted the advice from teachers.  Megan Slaney, NCS programme delivery co-ordinator failed to revise at all, Tom Hill & Shane Wheeler-Osman, NCS engagement officers only had half the recommended sleep and failed to have breakfast respectively.    The staff conducted video blogs throughout the day to record their results on how they were managing the pressures. 

Members of the Local Youth Board were the invigilators on the day.  They ensured that the adults in attendance were held to strict exam conditions and did a fantastic job at enforcing these.  Local Youth Board member Alex Hansford, 17, stated that he enjoyed the experience as it was putting adults to the test for a change and because it has been many years since they completed their exams, it is important for them to experience the pressures for teens today.  

NCS is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all 15 – 17 year olds that builds skills and confidence whilst also helping them get ahead in work and life. This runs in the summer after GCSE’s are completed. 

There are a number of benefits in taking part. NCS will improve a young person’s CV by giving them important skills for work and life that are hard to teach in the classroom alone. The programme will help young people contribute to their local community, and in doing so meet new people from different backgrounds and develop their social skills.

We also had coverage from BBC South Today and BBC Radio Radio Solent!

The Youth Options NCS programme runs across four different dates in Summer.  For more information please call the team on 02380 770713 or visit NCSYES.co.uk.