NCS special needs case study - Pebble Brook School

Pebble Brook School has been benefitting over the past few years from the activities and programmes offered by Action4Youth. We first became involved with the National Citizen Service in its first year of launching – at that time it was a reasonably small programme with its achievement ceremony held in small venues – over the recent years it has grown to fill the auditorium of the local Aylesbury Waterside Theatre.

Our young people have learning difficulties, often being reluctant to come out of their comfort zones, and it was through discussion with Action4Youth that they came up with a bespoke programme tailored to our students and their needs and during the school term so that it has become a valued part of our Year 12 curriculum – it now fulfils our team-building objectives amongst its other advantages.

For the first week of the NCS Programme the students take part in the physical activity sessions that are run at the Caldecotte Xperience. Here the staff are very friendly, accommodating and are excellent at meeting our students’ needs, challenging them to push themselves beyond what they think they are capable of. The students get so much out of this week as, for most, it pushes them out of their comfort zone and challenges their self awareness. We have several students who, at the start of the week, perhaps refuse to do any of the activities but by the end of the week are abseiling down the tower like a scene from Mission Impossible. Activities included abseiling, sailing, driving a speed boat, canoeing, darts, caving, rock climbing, crate stacking and bush craft. There are various team building activities and other activities included working with different groups of students through some excellent music and first aid workshops. This showed our students that you can relax and have fun in a large group and not be embarrassed by taking part in fun activities that may at first be alien.

The students have greatly benefited from the tailored programme as they have been able to really excel and shine amongst likeminded peers. Had the experience at Caldecotte been one where they had to share with others during the summer, many would not have taken part. Having a tailored NCS programme at Caldecotte really does support students with learning needs. The small groups and very experienced instructors allows for students to push themselves out of their comfort zones.
The programme has also allowed some who have never slept away from home without family the opportunity to stay with their friends and do something completely different. This again has helped to build their confidence in themselves and has led to taking part in further activities that before may not have been possible.

A student was nominated and won the Outstanding Contribution Award. The reason why this particular student was nominated was because, despite her own fears and lack of confidence, she supported her peers and pushed herself in all areas. She has a fear of heights but gave abseiling a go, was extremely fearful of caving but did it, showed leadership skills and was an overall team player. Prior to this experience the same student would be very fearful of any new experiences and would not even give them a go. She would prefer to spend time in her own company reading rather than speak to her peers. The experience at Caldecotte has really changed this student’s life – she is now willing to give things a try and is pushing herself in all areas of her life. We truly believe without the experience at Caldecotte the student would still be reluctant and unwilling to participate in new activities.

The Caldecotte Xperience has not only benefited this student, it has benefited all the students in one way or another. The experience allows for students to grow and learn about themselves in a supportive environment. It teaches them about risk, safety and teamwork whilst having fun. Having had the opportunity to attend and support the students it has been a great pleasure to see each of them grow in different ways. To see the quietest of students shouting instructions, seeing fear swept across their faces and then smiles once they have finished is really priceless. None of this would be possible without the Caldecotte Centre and its specialist equipment and trained staff. Our students would not be able to accomplish so much in so short a space of time.

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Interview with students from Pebble Brook School

The Inspiration Programme provides young people with new career choices

“I was somewhat able to get over some of my fears like climbing heights; I had the chance to meet new people and stay away from home.”

“I feel I benefited from NCS because even though I had my own worries I was always giving my friends some advice to help them stop worrying especially in the tunnels.”

“Well it helped me know how to communicate with my team and trust my friend when doing high stuff like crate stacking.”

Comments from students who participated

Pebble Brook School Gallery

We feel our child was able to cope with her own anxiety by helping her peers; she achieved caving which is a huge deal for her. Crate climbing she really enjoyed too. Gardening with the group was greatly enjoyed and has given her more confidence to help at home too. The bake sale was a success. And of course the big award that she received during the presentation made us very proud.” This is an excellent programme that we will continue to be a part of as the skills our students develop will last them a life time and set them up for employment after sixth form.


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