Soccer clubs signing up to ‘Big Society’

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SCHOOL leavers across South Yorkshire will be urged to sign up for David Cameron’s Big Society project this summer – by signing up for volunteering schemes based at their local football clubs.

Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham United and Barnsley will be part of 12 pilot schemes for the Government’s National Citizen Service programme.

The Prime Minister is to use Facebook to get teenagers involved in the scheme, which is designed to be a central plank of his vision of civic engagement and volunteering.

Young people signing up will go on a two-week trip to build teamwork and leadership skills before returning to their communities. They will then work on a five-week project to improve their local areas.

The three football clubs have been involved in successful long-running community programmes, which have included soccer-based literacy sessions for pupils behind with their maths and reading.

The new pilot schemes have been approved by Mr Cameron as a way of breathing new life into the Big Society idea, taking on criticism it is ‘too vague’ and a cover for cuts.

In his Facebook message the PM says: “I want National Citizen Service to inspire you to realise what you can achieve. This summer you will be able to spend two months mixing with other young people, learning new skills, and putting something back into your community.”

The aim is for 30,000 places to be available by the summer of 2012 and eventually Mr Cameron wants all 16-year-olds to be able to take part.

So far 1,000 people have signed up this year, and another 8,000 shown interest.

The pilot programmes will start in July after the end of GCSE exams and will culminate in National Citizen Service graduation ceremonies attended by family and friends.

Graduates of the National Citizen Service may later have the chance to take part in an International Citizen Service for 18 to 22-year-olds to help tackle poverty abroad.