Terms of Programme


Our standard age eligibility requirements are as follows:

  • Autumn – Participants must be 16 or 17 on 31 August of the current calendar year (and must not be 18 during any part of a residential phase, including travel days);
  • Summer – Participants must be 16 or 17 on 31 August of the current calendar year. Note that this means that young people who are 15 may attend summer programmes, providing they turn 16 on or before 31 August that year.


Where possible we provide equal access to our programme for all young people and will make the necessary adjustments to enable a young person to access and get the most out of NCS. Inclusion is about bringing people together. We recognise and celebrate people’s differences whilst ensuring that we provide equal opportunities regardless of these.

The only reason that we would not accept a young person onto the programme would be if we could not guarantee their or other people’s safety.

We are able to accommodate a large range of support needs if we are fully informed of them in appropriate time before the programme starts. Please complete the medical and support form as soon as possible, providing us with full details of the young person’s needs. Our dedicated team may then contact you if they need any further information or to discuss any additional support we could provide. One-to-one support is available on certain programmes (please contact us for information about availability in your area). In some cases, we may require a doctor or other specialist’s input to ensure that the young person is able to participate safely.

If you would like to discuss the possibilities for support on our programme, please call us on 020 3542 2400. To start your young person’s application, and provide details of their support needs, please go to our online portal for applications: http://ncsthechallenge.org/register


The NCS programme costs a maximum of £50 per Young Person although discount deadlines are available which may reduce this to £35, these are linked to school events.

For applicants unable to commit to this expenditure financial support is available. To apply for financial support please contact 020 3510 7672 or speak to the School’s Coordinator for your school.



We accept payment by credit/debit card, cheque or postal order and by cash (if the cash is handed in to the young person’s school and you notify us that we need to collect this).

Card payments can be submitted online or over the telephone, whilst cheques and postal orders can be posted to us. Cheques should be made payable to ‘The Challenge Network Ltd’.

Our postal address is: The Challenge, Mezz Floor, Elizabeth House, 39 York Road, London, SE1 7NQ


If a young person withdraws from NCS with The Challenge within 14 days of our receipt of their payment, they will be eligible for a full refund of their payment.

Please contact us by phone or email as soon as the young person knows they will be unable to participate in the programme. This way, we can offer this place to another young person who would like to take up the opportunity.

In the rare circumstance that we are not able to offer a young person a place on the programme on any of their selected dates, we will also offer a full refund.

Refunds will be made in the same format as they were received i.e.

  • if you have paid by card we will refund your payment back to the card you paid with
  • if you have paid by cash or cheque we will contact you to arrange a bank transfer to your bank account.
  • if you have paid by cash or cheque and are unable to accept a refund paid in to your bank account we will provide a refund by cheque

Refunds will be paid within 2 weeks of the request for a refund having been received. Refunds to a card normally take 5 working days. If you have not received your refund within 2 weeks of having requested it please contact us via our contact page.


NCS Powered by The Challenge is open to all Young People at school or living in our specified geographic areas who meet the age criteria. EU Citizens are eligible if being educated in England whether in independent or mainstream schools, Non-EU Citizens are eligible if they hold Indefinite Leave to Remain status (and would therefore normally be eligible for access to public funds), or have Discretionary or Time Limited Leave to Remain (and hence some level of access to public funds in some circumstances) or have Refugee status (with recourse to public funds) or are awaiting their status to be determined (i.e. in receipt of NASS payments).

All Young People eligible according to the other criteria can only take part in the NCS programme once.


We take the health and safety of young people in all manner very seriously and have a stringent Safeguarding policy to ensure that young people are in a healthy environment at all times. As we are continually seeking to improve and keep up with industry best practise our policy is updated regularly. However a copy of our policy is available upon request by written application to contact@ncsthechallenge.org, or:

The Challenge Network Ltd

Mezz Floor

Elizabeth House

39 York Road




During the programme Health & Safety is of utmost importance and our staff and activity provider staff are required to conduct regular risk assessments and our requirement in obtaining full medical and support information from a parent/guardian is to enable us to produce accurate assessments and ultimately reduce risk.


Absence policy

You are only eligible to graduate from your NCS programme if you complete 100% of the programme. If you are unable to attend due to an authorised reason (listed below) you may be eligible to graduate as long as you make up the hours that you missed through volunteering or social action.

Authorised reasons for absence

  • Bereavement or funeral of close friend or family member
  • GCSE Results day
  • Religious celebrations
  • Illness or serious injury
  • Job interviews
  • Commencement of employment
  • College inductions
  • Incidents related to you as a carer
  • Court Appearance (with evidence of court date)
  • Signing on to job seekers allowance
  • Medical appointments
  • Youth justice panels
  • Social worker/key worker meetings

This list will be kept under review and amended as and when required.

Please note that family holidays and celebrations do NOT count as an authorised absence.

How to advise of an absence

Planned authorised absence should normally be advised in advance. Your parent or guardian will need to advise in writing or by phoning Customer Services in order for it to be classed as “authorised”. Your parent or guardian will need to give information explaining that you have been approved to leave site or arrive late and inform us of your mode of travel e.g. unaccompanied in a taxi, picked up by parent etc.

Unplanned authorised absence e.g. Sickness, injury or bereavement.

Your parent/guardian should contact Customer Services at the earliest opportunity and advise on an estimated return date.

What happens if I am late?

Unauthorised absence or repeated lateness may prevent you from graduating.

  • If you turn up between 2-4 hours late on one occasion, you will be encouraged to make up the equivalent of a half day (4 hours)
  • If you turn up more than 4 hours late on one occasion, you will be encouraged to make up the equivalent of a full day (8 hours)
  • If you are repeatedly late by less than 2 hours it is up to The Challenge staff to decide whether you should be marked down as having missed a half day or more

Guidance for completing the 18 day summer programme

A young person can miss up to 4.5 days through authorised absence, but will have to make up hours up to at least 2.5 days to graduate. They will be encouraged to make up 100% of hours missed.

A young person can miss up to 2.5 days of unauthorised absence, but must make up all hours missed to graduate.

A young person cannot miss more than 4.5 days overall of authorised and unauthorised absence combined.

Guidance for completing the 14 day summer programme

A young person can miss up to 3.5 days through authorised absence, but will have to make up hours to at least 2 days in order to graduate. They will be encouraged to complete 100% of hours missed.

A young person can miss up to 2 days of unauthorised absence, but must make up all hours missed to graduate.

A young person cannot miss more than 3.5 days overall of authorised and unauthorised absence combined.

Guidance for completing the 11 day autumn programme

A young person can have up to 1.5 days authorised and still be able to graduate. They will be encouraged to make up the hours missed to 100% of attendance.

How do I make up hours?

You are encouraged to make up any hours missed before your graduation ceremony.

An NCS participant cannot miss more than 50% of one of the phases of the programme or the first day of phase.

Examples of activities that can be used to make up hours:

  • Leading sessions at a local youth group or uniformed group such as guides or scouts
  • Giving time to a local community member, group or charity, e.g. volunteering at local charity shop, volunteering in the office of a local charity, acting as a marshal at a charity fun run, or mowing a neighbour’s lawn.
  • Running an after school sports club for younger pupils.

The above information can be given to Customer Services with a contact name and telephone number so the information can be verified, if needed.

Examples of activities that cannot be used to make up hours:

  • Giving time to a profit making organisation
  • Paid work for a local charity or community group e.g. being paid to distribute leaflets promoting a charity
  • Helping relatives or friends e.g. mowing your parents lawn, cooking your nan dinner

Request to graduate

If you are absent for any unauthorised reason you may be able to make an exceptional request to be considered to graduate.


Before we can confirm a place, we need to receive and review your complete application. This includes medical and support information, consent from your parent/legal guardian and payment.

Places are subject to availability and are not confirmed until you receive confirmation from us by either email or letter. If we are not able to offer a young person a place on the programme, we will issue a full refund of the administration fee.

Waiting lists only apply to programmes which are already full.

Young people on a waiting list will be offered any space which becomes available on the programme before it starts. As other young people’s availability changes – due to holidays or other commitments – spaces do become available for those on waiting lists.

Waiting lists are checked daily and in general spaces are allocated to those that completed their applications first.  We are however also obliged to consider other criteria when allocating a place on the programme:

  • accommodation restrictions for boys and girls places
  • the number of people already on the programme from any one school (as we have to mix young people from different schools)
  • if the date selected has a suitable place to meet the young person’s needs (see our inclusion policy for further details).

If you are placed on a waiting list we will contact you.

You might also want to consider whether you are available for any of our programmes on other dates, as this will increase your chances of securing a space. It is possible to be on waiting lists for multiple programmes to increase your chances of getting a space.