What is a nurture Group?
Nurture groups are founded on evidence-based practices and offer a short-term, inclusive, focused intervention that works in the long term. Nurture groups are classes of between six and 12 children who are supported by the whole staff group and parents. Each group is run by two members of staff.
Children who attend a nurture group remain an active part of their main class group, spend appropriate times within the nurture group according to their need and typically return full time to their own class within two to four terms.
Nurture groups assess learning and social and emotional needs and give whatever help is needed to remove the barriers to learning. Often children may have experienced trauma such as loss through death or separation or attachment trauma due to parents metal health or abuse. As a result children may find social situations and learning difficult. Children who have experienced trauma often find it difficult to display 'mindful' behaviours. They can often display sensory seeking behaviours and find self emotional regulation difficult. Please read our Emotional Health and well Being page for more information.
In the nurture group and the classroom there is great emphasis on language development and communication so children can articulate their feelings. Nothing is taken for granted and everything is explained, supported by role modelling, demonstration and the use of gesture as appropriate. Adults are consistent in their approach so children feel safe.
In the nurture group the relationship between the staff is always nurturing and supportive which provides a role model that children can observe and begin to copy. Food is shared at ‘breakfast’ or ‘snack time’ with much opportunity for social learning, helping children to attend to the needs of others, with time to listen and be listened to.
As the children learn academically and socially they develop confidence, become responsive to others, learn self-respect and take pride in behaving well and in achieving.
The Principles of Nurture
Six important principles underpin the organisation and ethos of a nurture group.
1. Children’s learning is understood developmentally – the foundations of learning begin at birth and develop via a close relationship with an adult. Independence develops through dependence. Social empathy as well as learning develops from being thought about, valued and encouraged. Staff in the nurture group respond to each child at whatever emotional or social age s/he appears to be with the appropriate degree of control and nurture. The quality of this response enables the children to move on. Children’s developmental progress is assessed through the Boxall Profile handbook.
2. The nurture room offers a safe base – there is structure to the session which is predictable, adults who are reliable and firm and can set boundaries without being punitive. Children see two adults working together and supporting each other. This provides security and reassurance. The nurture group room offers a balance of educational and domestic experiences aimed at supporting the development of children’s positive relationships with each other and with the staff.
3. The importance of nurture for the development of wellbeing - nurture is listening, being responsive, remembering and engaging in reciprocal, shared activities such as play, having meals, reading, talking about events and feelings. Children respond to being valued and being thought of as individuals. This involves calling the children by their name, noticing and praising every small achievement; nothing is hurried in nurture groups.
4. Language is understood as a vital means of communication – Language is more than a skill to be learnt, it is the way of putting feelings into words. Nurture group children often ‘act out’ their feelings as they lack the vocabulary to ‘name’ how they feel. In nurture groups the informal opportunities for talking and sharing, e.g welcoming the children into the group or having snack time together are as important as the more formal lessons teaching language skills. Language is modelled as a means to resolving conflicts instead of actions to express feelings and opportunities are created for extended conversations or encouraging imaginative play to understand the feelings of others.
5. All behaviour is communication –Understanding what a child is communicating through behaviour helps staff to respond in a firm but not-punitive way by not being provoked or discouraged. If the child can sense their feelings are understood this can help to diffuse difficult situations. The adult makes the link between the external/internal worlds of the child. This principle underlines the adult response to the children’s often challenging or difficult behaviour. ‘Given what I know about this child and their development what is this child trying to tell me?’.
6. Transitions are significant in the lives of children – the nurture group helps the child make the difficult transition from home to school. However, on a daily basis there are numerous transitions the child makes, e.g between sessions and classes and between different adults. Changes in routine are invariably difficult for vulnerable children and need to be carefully managed with preparation and support.
Our nurture group is called ‘The Den’. This name was chosen by the children and adults when the nurture group was first developed. The times children attend the 'The Den' will depend on the child's needs. The time allocated will enable a child to experience a range of activities both in their classroom and within the nurture group. The group has a maximum of 8 children and its composition is carefully structured to ensure that children’s developmental ages are well matched.
The Den supports children to meet the social and intellectual demands of school life, improving their self-confidence and self-esteem, through a carefully planned curriculum tailored to the children’s specific needs.
It offers a welcoming, warm environment that provides a bridge between home and school.
The role of the Nurture Group Leader
To run the nurture group with the support and guidance of the SLT and to:
Be involved in formal reviews as required; to support curriculum development;
Be involved with the selection and re-integration of pupils
Maintain the Nurture Group principles - this is to provide a carefully structured session offering a balance of learning and teaching, affection and structure within a home-like atmosphere.
Organise and plan the activities and curriculum of the nurture group, matching the individual needs of the children.
Oversee the keeping of records for individual children.
Co-ordinate the work of the Nurture Group assistant.
Liaise with other professionals when appropriate.
Activity work in partnership with parents in the development of their children’s social, emotional and intellectual needs.
Support Nurture Group children on trips and whole school activities.
Carry out and contribute to school policies and procedures
The Nurture environment
The Den has 4 specific areas which provide a secure, safe base for learning. These are:-
Teaching and Learning
The Den children will follow the curriculum with has a large emphasis on personal social and emotional development. There are clear links to other core and foundation subjects. Activities are planned around a termly theme to engage children.
Whilst the children are attending the nurture group their class teachers continue to take responsibility for their progress and learning. Therefore they will contribute to planning to ensure children are working towards the outcomes for their age and stage.Each session follows a similar pattern.
What does learning in the nurture group look like?
Reading and self-chosen activity time. – A calming time where children are given the opportunity to share news and develop listening and speaking skills. The children are each given some 1:1 time with an adult to complete reading and communicate any significant news.
Phonics – The children engage in practical and recorded activities which are structured to progress the children’s phonic knowledge.
Self-chosen child led activity – This is a shortbreak from learning before the children embark on their main learning task.
Adult led activity – this session is a curriculum based activity where children work on skills that will increase their confidence and self-esteem.
Self-chosen child led activity – This session is about collaboration and successful interaction between the peer group. It gives the children an opportunity to develop social skills and build relationships through play based activities.
Snack time – This part of the session aims to provide opportunities to socialise and develop communication skills with their peers and adults. Children also take part in a brief moment of collective worship saying a prayer before their snack.
Golden time – This is time for reflection, praise and celebration. The Den follows the school behaviour policy with a strong emphasis on following ‘The Golden Rules’. Children who do not change their behaviour following a warning will lose Golden Time 1 minute at a time. Golden Time is held twice during a session to allow the children the opportunity to feel successful about changing negative behaviours.
Playtime and lunchtime – The children access a playtime that is separate to the rest of the school. This enables them to gain the confidence to access play equipment and learn new recreational skills.
Golden time. – This session is used as an opportunity for adults to play alongside the children to model language and extending play activities.
Identification and Referral
The nurture group currently supports a range of children across school both depending on need. The identification process takes place during the summer term before the children begin their new academic year or when a child transfers mid year.
The nurture group leader works alongside children and parents in the school nursery to help identify children who would benefit from support upon their transition into school.
The children are screened by completing a Boxall Profile. This is a series of questions which give a clear, personalised picture of the children’s diagnostic and developmental stages. Several Boxall profiles will be completed during the end of the summer term. These children will be monitored closely in their classrooms once they start school in September. The selection of the children that will form the nurture group is based on the Boxall Profile and how they are coping with everyday expectations of school life.
Children are given an opportunity to bond with their class teacher, teaching assistant and peers before entering the nurture group during the first half of the autumn term. This time delay also gives an opportunity for children who have not attended the school nursery to be considered for the nurture group and be assessed.
Once the children have been selected, they will be supported within the nurture group until they are ready to transfer back into the classroom. The expectation is Spring Term. This gives the children a chance to develop their skills and prepare them for their transition into the classroom full time. It also provides opportunities for evidence towards formal assessments from outside agencies if required. This time limit also prevents the children from becoming too reliant on an unsustainable environment.
It is important for the children’s class teachers and teaching assistants to feel a part of what is happening in the nurture group and to carry the principles back to their classroom to provide consistency.
Parental support is vital to ensure children repair from trauma and make progress
Parents are fully involved and consulted about the selection process and assessments
Communication between nurture group staff and parents will happen daily
Parents are invited to sessions to ensure they feel part of the nurturing environment.
Parents are invited to activities that support their children e.g. Family Learning and Healthy Eating project
Parents are encouraged to meet with the nurture group staff weekly.
The Boxall Profile (which allows for an individual picture of the child’s social and emotional needs) is used as the assessment tool. This is carried out termly in order for staff to be aware of any progress or change in the areas of need to be developed.
Nurture group staff work closely with the children’s class teachers to ensure consistency between the two settings.
The re-integration process is fully supported by nurture group staff, the pupil, class teacher and parents.
Our Nurture group has 2 members of highly skilled staff who have participated in the Nurture Group training. It is overseen by the school leadership team, including Mrs Guest, Deputy head teacher, who has also completed the Nurture Group Training.
In order to maintain consistency and security the nurture group is never covered by supply staff. In the event of staff absence a known member of the school staff, known to the children, will be redeployed to cover the absence.
Visitors to The Den.
Visitors can cause disruption and change to an otherwise ordered and structured day. Any change from routine can be difficult for some children, therefore visitors to The Den should always be pre-arranged in order to prepare the children for what will happen.