Poll: Should all 16-year-olds be signed up to national service?

The proposals would see every 16-year-old in the country taking part in a two-week ‘civic exploration’ trip.

Group of adolescent volunteers cleaning together a public park. They are picking up garbage.
The scheme would see teenagers helping out communities across the UK. (Getty/stock photo)

A plan for teenagers in the UK being automatically signed up for national service has received high-profile backing from a leading MP.

Penny Mordaunt, the leader of the House of Commons, said the proposals – which would see every 16-year-old taking part in a two-week ‘civic exploration’ trip to help out communities across the country – would promote “good mental health and resilience”.

The scheme, dubbed the Great British National Service, has been mooted by the Onward think-tank and would not be compulsory – but teenagers would have to opt out if they did not want to take part.

In an article for The Telegraph, Mordaunt – who served for nine years in the Royal Navy Reserve – said national service would promote “goodwill and community spirit, energy and imagination” in youngsters.

Yahoo News UK has launched a poll to find out if you think 16-year-olds taking part in national service is a great idea or whether you think it woudn’t work.

What did Onward say about their proposal?

Many young people feel “disconnected from their community and nation”, according to Francois Valentin, a senior researcher at Onward.

Valentin argued that the think-tank’s national service proposal was a “bold idea” that would be “unifying” and can help teach young people the “skills they need to succeed”.

The project aims to encourage teenagers from different backgrounds to mix, as well as to help repair some of the damage caused by COVID lockdowns on children and young people.

Valentin said it would be a “popular answer to young people's challenges” and would help them from “falling further into crisis”.

Edinburgh, UK. 06 August, 2023 Pictured: .  Penny Mordaunt, the MP for Portsmouth North and Leader of the House of Commons in conversation with LBC presenter Iain Dale at the Edinburgh Fringe. During the discussion, Mordaunt revealed that she believed everyone was a Conservative, including SNP MP, Deidre Brock, who she spars with each Thursday at Business Questions in the House of Commons.  Credit: Rich Dyson/Alamy Live News
Commons leader Penny Mordaunt has backed the idea of a national service for teenagers. (Alamy)

What did Mordaunt say about national service?

Mordaunt argued that there is nothing “more rewarding than serving your community and nation”.

She said: “No one is more effective at helping others than a willing volunteer. Nothing is more rewarding than serving your community and nation.

“Many young people are struggling with their mental health, to find purpose, and feel a sense of belonging.

“Stepping forward to help others could be part of the answer. Service can help build the resilience, skills, and pride in their community and country that many need.”

Polling shows support for National Service for teenagers. (Onward)
Polling shows support for National Service for teenagers. (Onward)

What do critics say about national service?

While polling shows that a majority of Britons (57%) support national service – with higher support from parents – critics argue that young people are already facing an uphill struggle.

Author Edwin Hayward wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, that younger are craving “a roof over their heads and well-paying jobs”.

Peter Whitewood, an associate professor at York St John’s University, said that young people are faced with “job insecurity and increasing barriers to buying a home and starting a family”, adding that their future prospects are “getting worse”.

He argued that they have already made “huge sacrifices in the pandemic for the benefit of others”.