NCS programme shows importance of respect

Riot police patrol streets
Riot police patrol streets
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It has been said that the recent rioters did not know right from wrong. In truth they knew they were wrong, but they did not care.

When responding to such open disregard for the rule of law, to fail to show the force of that law would be to undermine its integrity, and the courts have been justifiably stern in the sentences they have handed down.

There will, though, come a time when the offenders have served their sentences, and we will be deluding ourselves if we think that will be enough to prevent a repeat of those nights of criminality.

Portsmouth, untouched by riots, played a full part in the new National Citizenship Service. NCS is an eight-week programme for 16-year-olds to introduce them to responsibilities and treat them with maturity.

During a two-week residential element away from home they work with civil and military organisations and bond with their fellow NCS participants. After this they are tasked with devising a social action project to benefit their community which they then put in place.

Finally, they must do 30 hours of part-time volunteering with a charity or social enterprise.

I visited this year’s intake last week and was left in no doubt about the scheme’s worth. The children came from varied backgrounds, yet got on well and worked as a team.

I found them eager to tell me of their personal aspirations and their plans for Portsmouth.

For several children it was the first time they had truly understood what it means to be part of a community and recognised the pleasure that helping others can bring.

Civic pride and self-respect were there, but some needed an opportunity to bring them out. NCS alone will not prevent future riots, but it will allow children an experience that emphasises why respect is so important.