Teach First founder Brett Wigdortz to chair embattled National Citizen Service

Brett Wigdortz, the founder of Teach First, has been appointed as the new chair of the National Citizen Service.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has named Wigdortz, who stood down as Teach First’s CEO last October, as the NCS’s chair-designate.

He will take on the role at an important time for the organisation, which will be given a royal charter later this year to ensure greater transparency following a series of missed targets and damning criticism from government auditors.

Established in 2011, the NCS was a key part of the “big society” agenda of the former prime minister David Cameron, who chairs the organisation’s panel of patrons.

The NCS uses government funding to pay private companies to provide residential trips, volunteering and work experiences to teenagers. Its annual funding will rise to £424 million within the next three years.

The scheme’s bosses set a target of having 360,000 pupils take part annually by 2020, but the National Audit Office found just 93,000 participated in 2016. In fact, the NCS missed its own recruitment targets three years in a row.

The government originally planned to force schools to promote the service, but quickly abandoned them, opting instead to write to every 16-year-old in the country about the scheme.

MPs and the National Audit Office have also questioned the NCS’s readiness for expansion, given a “remarkably untransparent” set of accounts.

A parliamentary public accounts committee report said the government and NCS Trust could not justify the seemingly high cost per participant of the scheme, at £1,863 for the four-week programme.

The report noted that the Scout Association estimates that it costs £550 to create a place in the Scouts that last at least four years.

The National Citizen Service Act 2017, which passed into law last year, gave the NCS a royal charter, which puts it on a statutory footing and makes it answerable to parliament. The organisation will also be required to publish a business plan and annual accounts.

Stephen Greene, the NCS’s outgoing chair, said it had been a “great privilege” to serve in the role and welcomed Wigdortz to the board.

The transition of NCS to a Royal Charter body represents a “significant new period in the evolution of NCS,” he said.

“I have no doubt that Brett will have every success in taking NCS on to the next stage in its history. The programme is in good hands.”

Wigdortz added the NCS had played a “pivotal role” in transforming the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people so far.

“I look forward to the challenge of helping lead the organisation as it continues to empower thousands of young people across the country.”