Head of Programmes (NCS)

Start Date: January 2018
Salary: Competitive and subject to experience  
London Waterloo – although other locations would be considered for an exceptional candidate

Context for the Role

The Challenge is one of the UK’s fastest growing charities and the largest provider of the government’s National Citizen Service (NCS) programme.  Our mission is to connect and inspire people to strengthen their communities.  In 2018 we will directly deliver the NCS programme to over 38,000 young people across the summer and autumn periods
This Head of Programmes (HOP) will work closely with the Regional Head of Programmes (RHOP) to ensure that we deliver the NCS programme to the highest quality in 2018 and ensure the plans are in place to run further successful programmes in 2019 and beyond.  This role is a senior leadership post that has national responsibility for the vision and strategic direction of the NCS Programmes team and the Challenge run NCS programme. The successful candidate will play a vital role in ensureing that we are able to strengthen the communities in which we work and have a long lasting positive impact.

This post is the key decision maker for the NCS Programmes team and will be directly responsible for the leadership of the national core staff team of over 330 people and a seasonal staff team of over 4,500 during our peak delivery period. The successful candidate will directly manage a number of Senior Programme Managers as well as the Regional Head of Programmes. 

Although the RHOP will report directly into the HOP – it is vital that these roles work in partnership and collaboration for the benefit of the NCS programme and to ensure that all parts of the country are equally represented, whilst maintaining a consistent national programme.

The HOP will work to ensure all of our NCS programmes are delivered safely, to a high standard of quality and within budget.  This person will ensure our work delivers lasting impact and strives for improvement year on year.

Specific Responsibilities

  • Drive increased efficiency and effectiveness of the Programmes team. The HOP will lead the NCS programmes team to develop and continually refresh our NCS programme and related community activity, whilst ensuring we operate as efficiently as possible during a time of rapid growth. The ability to prioritise both time, effort and budget will be key. This role will be the key decsion maker within the Programmes team.
  • Plan strategically for future NCS delivery. The RHOP and HOP will need to work closely with other department heads to ensure that our 2018 changes are implemented successfully, and that we are able to strategically develop our programme delivery for NCS in 2019 and into further NCS contracts to ensure that we maintain quality, fulfil our mission and support our staff – whilst remaining competitive.
  • Develop strong local and national partnerships. The HOP will need to build high quality, mutually beneficial partnerships with relevant national and local organisations in key sectors, our local delivery partners (LDPs) and our key funder, the NCS Trust. They will need to ensure our policies, procedures and branding are in line with the NCS Trust requirements and communicate regularly with them during key delivery periods. Managing their expectations and exceeding them where possible.
  • Ensure risk assessment, health, safety and legal compliance. Ensure that our safeguarding, health and safety and critical incident policies and procedures are of a high standard and represent the best in field. Ensure all staff are well trained in all policies and procedures, that these are implemented successfully during delivery and that incident reporting protocol is clear.  Ensure that we fulfil our contractual and legal reporting obligations to our funder and other relevant bodies and that the processes and systems we have in place allow us to do this.
  • Provide quality assurance and oversee LDP delivery. Manage and assess the quality of programme delivery and identify refinements to curriculum, systems and partnerships including oversight of the delivery by our LDPs.
  • Develop permanent staff to build high performing teams. Ensure there is sufficient investment in the personal development of direct reports – the RHOP and the Senior Programme Managers. Provide guidance and coaching to managers to ensure teams perform at very high levels and that the wider programmes team is well informed, positive and operating to a high standard. Ensure that you aproach the relationship with the RHOP in a collaborative style and
  • Management of relationships with senior managers and directors across the organisation. Build strong working relationships with Senior Managers and Heads of Department across the organisation including Sales, Staffing, Finance, HR, Customer Services, Curriculum, Procurement & Innovation.
  • Provide on call cover and escelation support for the NCS Programme during delivery. Ensure that there is adeqaute on call cover and support for the national NCS programmes and the staff team at all time during delivery, and that the welfare of the young people on our programme is paramount.


The role requires a rare combination of strengths in people management and coaching, logistics, strategic planning, relationship building, residential youth work and practical judgement.  This is a fantastic opportunity to co-lead an entrepreneurial and innovative team, grow in a dynamic and supportive environment and contribute to an exciting programme for social change.

We are looking for exceptional individuals with the following qualities:


  • People management: Experience managing and motivating large teams of people in challenging environments; experience coaching and developing staff over longer periods of time; ability to work in a collaborative way with other senior managers
  • Project management and logistics: Success in managing complex delivery of projects, on time, including managing large budgets. Experience working at a senior level in an operational role.
  • Strategic leadership: Experience setting strategy and direction, dividing up responsibilities to deliver this strategy, and monitoring implementation. The ability to assimilate data from multiple sources and set and communicate a set of priorities both internally and externally. The ability to make difficult decisions and trade-offs, with courage to follow them through.
  • Drive and ambition to constantly grow, improve, and deliver, with the proactivity to take on new challenges and an appetite for change. Balance consistent delivery of targets and responsiveness to internal and external requests, with the ability to appropriately challenge the status quo when required.
  • Youth-work experience: Experience working with groups of young people (in voluntary or paid capacity).  Good judgement on how to manage difficult behavioural situations. 
  • Demonstrated track record of commitment to stronger communities.
  • Proven track record of ability to successfully influence a wider range of internal and external stakeholders through building highly effective relationships.
  • Outstanding written and verbal communication skills. Be able to understand and communicate effectively the overall picture and messages, as well as the local detail, to multiple internal and external stakeholders, including those operating at the most senior level.
  • Combination of creative and logical thinking with excellent problem solving skills.

Further Details

  • This role would involve approximately one day of travel per week to our regional offices across the country.
  • During our peak delivery period the NCS programme runs 24/7. This role involves working some weekends and providing overnight on call cover.
  • In addition to being part of a fun, dynamic and challenging workforce, we are proud to offer an attractive benefits package including contributory pension, Simplyhealth cash plan, Ride 2 Work, childcare vouchers, season ticket travel card loan etc. to eligible employees.

Please apply by sending your CV and a cover letter to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by 9am on the 8th of January 2018.

Only applicants who have the right to work in the UK will be considered for this role.