This summer, I have been able to witness some amazing activities by young people from across Oxfordshire. In this blog I would like to mention three groups and the adults that have supported them. All have to a greater or lesser extent funding from official sources, but need to rely upon volunteers as well, including the goodwill of parents. They represent but the tip of an iceberg of what takes place.
At the end of the school summer term I attended various concerts put on by the County Music Service, and at the end of the month I will be attending a welcome back concert by the OSO. This orchestra is considered to be Oxfordshire’s “training” orchestra, with students going on to play in the OSSO, OYWO and OCYO. Next year the most senior of these orchestra is planning on playing Mahler’s First Symphony. That would be a magnificent achievement for the orchestra and the County Music Service. Their other achievement this year, of buddying children with SEND of all descriptions with other young people to create a truly memorable music experience, broke new boundaries.
The National Citizen Service hasn’t always had a good press, but the on the ground activities help create a sense of teamwork and allow young people to achieve more than they thought themselves capable. I was privileged to be asked to judge the projects by five of the teams from among the 700 young people taking part in the five discrete programmes this summer in Oxfordshire. These programmes also involved the use of 200 staff to support the courses. Included in the programme was supporting and fund-raising for charitable activities. Alongside support for the homeless and the local hospital charity were campaigns to support young carers; those with brain injuries and a project to map unisex toilets that can be used by those identifying as of transgender. I witnessed two of the teams staffing a stall in the local market place as a means of raising funds. In 2018, more than £43,000 was raised by NCS group activities. It is still early to say how much will be raised in 2109, but again young people came together to work on a project and learn a range of skills.
Yester, I attended the open day for the Oxfordshire Battalion of the Army Cadet Force summer camp. Despite atrocious weather, youngsters from 13 to 19 were participating in a range of activities albeit with a military theme. The dedication of all concerned was clear to see and the Battalion in Oxfordshire is clearly in good spirits. However, I wonder whether the MoD pays the same attention to the ACF s it does to the Combined Cadet Force or CCF that is mostly located in our independent schools? In this day and age youth activities by the MoD must not be organised so that one is the route for potential officers and the other for other ranks. That might have worked in the days after World War 2 when the tri-partite system of education prevailed, but would look extremely out of date these days. Bringing pupils from both sectors to work together, especially in a county lie Oxfordshire with so many intendent schools, might dispel any such notion. Larger numbers might also help attract those interested in understanding the range of activities of our defence forces and the skills they need.
So, my thanks to all that give up their time for these and other organisations working with young people. We just need to ensure that there is also a proper youth service that can support others, such as young carers that often cannot find the time to join in these types of activities.