Running a Nurture Group


Simon Bishop

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    This book would not have been written without the support of my wife Sarah and my daughters, Maisie and Eliza. All my love and a big thank-you go to them for inspiration, help, patience and advice.

    Thanks to Mum and Dad and all the family for encouragement.

    Thanks to Sarah Bullmore and Carole Whittard at Christ Church First School, Frome, for vision and effort in making the nurture group a reality.

    A big thank-you also to all the dedicated staff of Christ Church First School, with special thanks to Claire Harrington and Liz Penney for all your hard work over the years.

    About the Author

    Simon Bishop is married with two daughters and lives in Somerset. He has taught for over twenty years in Primary and First schools. Six years ago he set up a full-time ‘Boxall model’ nurture group that he currently runs. The inspiration for the nurture group came from an article in the Special Needs Information Press ( Simon started to use an assessment tool called the Boxall Profile which helped him to begin to understand more fully why some children find school such a difficult place to be, and would benefit from being in a nurture group. He continues to be inspired by the principles of nurture groups, and how this intervention enables the school to adjust to meet the needs of the children who can't meet the needs of the school. He also finds that nurture groups enable adults at school to respond to children with greater empathy and understanding.

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    CD-Rom Contents

    All contents markedare full page photocopiable resources

    Fig 1.1 Children's behaviour and how teachers feel

    Fig 1.2 How Nurture Groups fit with ECM Outcomes

    Fig 1.3 Admission Criteria Checklist

    Fig 2.1 Process of Strategic Planning

    Fig 2.2 Values audit

    Fig 2.3 What is your vision for your nurture group?

    Fig 2.4 Stakeholder analysis

    Fig 2.5 Mission statement criteria

    Fig 2.6 Action plan

    Fig 2.7 Steering Group letter

    Fig 2.8 Weekly Update Sheet

    Fig 2.9 Questionnaire for parents

    Fig 2.10 Staff questionnaire

    Fig 3.1 Stages of development and attachment

    Fig 4.1 Timetable for the day

    Fig 4.2 Policy for reintegration

    Fig 5.1 Behaviour plan

    Fig 5.2 Record of physical intervention

    Fig 5.3 Framework for nurture group policy

    Fig 5.4 Nurture group topic planner

    Fig 5.5 Rotating activity planner

    Fig 5.6 Learning objectives planning sheet

    Fig 5.7 Nurture group policy

    Fig 6.1 Timetable of Nurture Group development

    PowerPoint presentations and explanations for INSET:

    • Nurture group principles and attachment theory
    • What is a nurture group?
    • The six principles of nurture groups
    • Using the Boxall Profile
    • A Strategic Planning Model
    • What affects behaviour in schools?

    How to Use This Book

    It is relatively easy to set up a nurture group. The school needs a room with some basic equipment, two caring, hard-working adults and a group of children with a variety of emotional and behavioural difficulties. However, there is huge potential for things to go wrong if time is not given for:

    • the school to develop an understanding of nurture group principles and practice
    • the steering group to plan how the nurture group is going to operate
    • the school to have opportunities to develop a clear vision for the work of the nurture group.

    If a nurture group is set up without this understanding and planning, there can be confusion about what it is supposed to achieve and how it works. There can be uncertainty about which children should be selected and what should they do in the nurture group. School staff can feel dispirited if this is another intervention that does not seem to work.

    The objectives of this book are to enable a school to:

    • understand the benefit to the whole school of having a nurture group, how the school is able to respond more flexibly to difficult situations and how relationships with particular children can become more positive
    • use a proven planning model to successfully manage the development of the nurture group and ensure that it runs successfully
    • be clear about which children to select for nurture group placement and have a good understanding of how to work with the children in the nurture group, especially when a child is finding it difficult to manage his behaviour
    • organize a daily timetable, work effectively with parents and other professionals and think through how children will be reintegrated to their classes
    • understand the importance of supporting the adults working in the nurture group, so that they are not working in isolation.
    • develop Behaviour Plans so that the whole school works consistently with particular children
    • use INSET materials provided on the CD-Rom to give staff understanding about different aspects of nurture group work, such as using the Boxall Profile, understanding how attachment affects children's behaviour at school and how to use a management model to develop the nurture group.

    There are resources from each chapter on the CD-Rom that can be adapted to any setting. INSET material is provided on the CD-Rom in the form of PowerPoint presentations, with accompanying explanatory notes that make the presentations self-contained and very easy to use.

    At the end of many of the chapters are suggestions for further reading in the form of books or useful websites.

    The aims of this book are:

    • To enable practitioners to plan for the development of a nurture group and successfully manage the changes that will occur within the school
    • To ensure that schools have a clear vision and understanding about the work of nurture groups and how the adults will be working with the children
    • To develop knowledge about how children behave and for this to enable good practice to develop within the school
    • For children, parents, teachers and school staff to be feel the benefit of a well run nurture group and for the whole school community to become a nurturing environment
    • To inspire schools to set up and run the best nurture groups that they can so that the whole school community can work together with empathy and understanding.
  • Appendix 1

    This appendix contains completed examples of sample documents which appear in Chapter 2.


    For everyone to know the value of the nurture group, to support its aims and values and for the funding to continue

    For people to know success stories

    For there to be clear, quantifiable success criteria

    For there to be an impact on mainstream education and there to be a change in practice and provision

    Other schools in the area to learn from the nurture group and be empowered

    For people to recognize that there is a need for this type of provision

    For the nurture group to be an integral part of the local federation of schools

    For parents to see the nurture group as essential

    To be viewed by other professionals as being an important way of reaching families

    The school to hold it in high esteem

    Happier children and teachers

    Children see the nurture group as just part of the school

    It is an established resource

    There is less school exclusion

    Values Audit
    Personal Beliefs

    An essential part of the education system in the twenty-first century

    An important early intervention strategy

    Preventative provision – not just containing the problem

    Nurturing approach applicable to whole school

    Adherence to well researched principles rather than cultural values

    Monitoring and assessment tools used to establish transparent entry and exit criteria

    Reintegration seen as important right from the start of a child's placement

    Difference from Mainstream Classes


    Slower pace

    Homely environment

    Freedom to use different approaches

    Pursue individual needs of children

    Opportunity to play

    Filling gaps in children's education

    Use of food

    Smaller number of children

    What Would You Want to See in a Nurture Group?

    Play, learning and having fun


    EBD concerns being met

    Activities matched to the needs of the children

    Children being taught how to play

    What Would You Want to Hear Teachers Say about the Nurture Group?

    The nurture group has developed my skills

    I know what to do with the children when they are back in class

    There are people I can talk to and get support from when I am faced with a child I find difficult

    I feel relief that this child isn't in a failing situation any more

    I understand the nurture group principles

    What Would You Want to Hear the Children Saying?

    I feel happy, safe and valued

    I feel that I am being helped

    I can do my work

    I know more about myself

    What Would You Want to Hear the Parents Say about the Nurture Group?

    My child is more confident

    I know why my child is in the nurture group

    This is a good provision

    I know what is going on

    I can take part

    Staff see my point of view and I don't feel blamed

    I know where the provision is leading

    My child is happy

    I can see all the children in the school benefit

    I understand that this provision is supportive

    I feel involved

    The nurture group has helped my child at home

    My parenting skills have been helped

    Mission Statement
    Who are We: What is Our Identity?

    The nurture group provides a flexible and preventative resource that is responsive to the needs of particular children attending the school. Within the nurture group there is a secure and reliable environment for children showing signs of emotional stress and behavioural difficulties. The nurture group enables children to re-experience pre-school nurture from caring adults who work actively towards the children's successful reintegration into mainstream classes.

    Nurture group staff work in partnership with class teachers, assistants and parents to enable consistency of approach, both at home and at school. Links are being developed between schools in the Federation and other professional organisations such as Social Services so that the nurture group's philosophy and approach can be developed.

    What are the Basic Social Needs We Exist to Fulfil?

    The nurture group is part of a continuum of provision offered by the school. It enables the school to meet the needs of those pupils who have evidence of gaps in pre-school development leading to emotional, linguistic and intellectual deprivation, making their chance of success at school very slim. The school recognizes that some children are unable to adjust to life at school and it is necessary that the school adjust to them by providing this type of provision.

    Children who are targeted for the support offered by the nurture group are those who have evidence of severely deprived early childhoods. The principle underlying this provision is that the child will be responded to at whatever developmental stage they are presently at.

    What Do We Want to Do to Recognize and Respond to these Needs?

    Placement within the nurture group will be considered for children who are underachieving for social, emotional or behavioural reasons. The children will be considered against the Entry Criteria Checklist. The Goodman's Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire and the Boxall Profile will be used to objectively assess children's needs and their suitability for placement in the nurture group.

    Parental agreement is necessary. All referrals will be made in consultation with parents on a standard form. Nurture group staff will meet informally with parents and will also arrange more formal parent interviews to discuss children's progress. Reintegration to mainstream class will be planned with the child and all key adults. Each child will be monitored and reviewed on an ongoing basis. Consultations with the Educational Psychologist and other professionals will be arranged as appropriate.

    There will be a maximum of 12 children in the nurture group at any one time. Children will attend for a period of up to four terms.

    How Should We Respond to Our Key Stakeholders?

    A Steering Group has been set up to enable an agreed vision to be formulated. The Steering Group will meet twice a year to ensure that the needs of key stakeholders are being addressed in the context of staying true to the nurture group philosophy. Action Plans will be drawn up and reviewed at each Steering Group meeting to ensure that the shared vision for the nurture group is being achieved.

    What is Our Philosophy and Our Core Values?

    School is based on the assumption that children are essentially biddable and willing to entrust themselves to the teacher and have some understanding of their expectations. School presupposes that children have an awareness of how the world around them functions and they are sufficiently organized to be able to cope in large group situations. Schools believe that they are continuing a learning process that began in the home. However, these assumptions are not necessarily justified in the case of severely deprived and disadvantaged children.

    The problems of such children are understood as stemming from the lack of early care and support in families suffering severe social fragmentation and stress. The child does not experience the reliable sequence of events that enable them to make sense of the world around them. Trust in adults is weakened because the level of support that the child gets does not reliably meet his needs.

    A nurture group creates an environment where children can make up for missed early experiences. Within the nurture group, there is recognition that some children are functioning at a much younger developmental age, and they find it difficult to function in a busy classroom. A nurture group day is slow moving, with clear structure, routine and much repetition. Management of behaviour is consistent and fair.

    Appendix 2

    Nurture Group Policy

    The school has been able to appoint an additional teacher and a full-time assistant to work with small groups of children who will benefit from being in a smaller group and in a less formal environment than the normal classroom can provide.

    Purpose/Aim of the Nurture Group
    • To provide a flexible and preventative resource which is responsive to the particular needs of the children attending the school.
    • To provide ongoing assessment and support for children showing signs of emotional stress and behavioural difficulties with the aim of enabling the child to access the curriculum and participate fully in school life.
    • To provide a secure and reliable environment where children can learn by re-experiencing pre-school nurture from caring adults who actively work towards their successful integration into their mainstream class.
    • To help children to learn to behave appropriately, use their curiosity constructively, improve their self-esteem and develop confidence through close and trusting relationships with adults.
    • To work in partnership with class teachers and parents to enable consistency of approach, both at home and at school.
    • Nurture Groups are a unique, preventative resource based on well documented psychological theory and research.
    • The Nurture Group is based in a separate room with a home-like area and an area set aside for formal learning.
    • Children will attend for a maximum period of up to four terms.
    • There will be a maximum of 10–12 children in the Nurture Group at any one time.
    • The children will be on the register of their mainstream class and they will join their class for appropriate activities.
    • The children will spend lunchtime and playtime with other children in the school. Some children may need extra support at these times.
    • The Nurture Group will consist of a full-time experienced teacher and a full-time assistant who will work as a team. Neither adult will be available to cover for absent staff within the school.
    • In the absence of the Nurture Group Teacher it will not be possible for the group to function; therefore the children will return to their mainstream classes and be supported by the Nurture Group Assistant and other Key Adults. If the Nurture Group Assistant is absent, the Nurture Group will continue with the Teacher and a trained Classroom Assistant.
    Non-Contact Time

    Non-contact time will be required for the Nurture Group team to

    • See parents
    • Attend case conferences
    • Keep records
    • Carry out observations
    • Meet with other professionals
    • Liaise with other school staff
    • Attend INSET

    Non-contact time is on ………………….

    Outreach Work

    The Nurture Group will continue to build on existing multi-agency outreach work. Training, advice and support for colleagues in the local area will be offered. Nurture Group staff will develop links with other professionals as appropriate and work with them to enable the child and the family to be offered an effective package of support.

    Steering Committee

    The Steering Committee will meet for one full day to enable a cohesive and agreed vision to be formulated. This will be achieved through working through a variety of activities including a Values Audit, a Stakeholder Analysis and developing a mission statement

    The Steering Committee will meet twice yearly to ensure that progress is being made towards achieving the vision and to offer guidance and support as required.

    Referral Procedures
    • All referrals will be made in consultation with parents on a standard form.
    • Formal assessment by an Educational Psychologist is not a pre-requisite for admission, but consultation and discussion of relevant factors may be necessary.
    • All referrals will be discussed with the Head Teacher, Class Teacher and Nurture Group Team.
    • A variety of assessment procedures will be used to inform referrals. These will include the Goodman's Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, the Boxall Profile and appropriate academic assessments.
    • Parents will be kept fully informed about the outcomes of these assessments and meetings.
    Entry/Admission Criteria
    • Parental Agreement is Necessary

    Nurture Group placement will be considered for children who are underachieving for social, emotional or behavioural reasons. This will include:

    • Children who are very restless, cannot listen, behave impulsively or aggressively
    • Children who are withdrawn and unresponsive and who have difficulty relating to others
    • Children whose known history suggests that they may be at risk.
    • The Goodman's Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire and the Boxall Profile will be used to objectively assess children's needs and their suitability for placement in the Nurture Group.
    Arrangements for Review of Pupils
    • Each child will be monitored and reviewed on an ongoing basis. Consultations with the Educational Psychologist and other professionals will be arranged as appropriate.
    • Formal reviews with parents will take place on a termly basis.
    Reintegration/Exit Criteria
    • Reintegration will be planned with the Head Teacher, parents, Class Teacher, Nurture Group team and other Key Adults consulting with the School Educational Psychologist where appropriate.
    • Where reintegration is not considered appropriate an alternative action plan will be agreed. This may involve assessment at the next stage of the Code of Practice.
    • For more detail please refer to the Reintegration Policy.
    Parental Links
    • All children attending the Nurture Group require resources beyond those usually provided by the school. The school will work in partnership with parents. This will be achieved through formal reviews each term and more frequent informal discussions concerning the progress of the children.
    • The Head Teacher will be responsible for dealing with any complaints from parents. Complaints which remain unresolved will be referred through the school's normal procedures.
    Role of the Head Teacher

    The Head Teacher has overall responsibility for the functioning of the Nurture Group within the school. The Head Teacher is responsible for:

    • The operational management of the Nurture Group
    • Management of Nurture Group staff as members of the school community
    • Oversight of curriculum planning and monitoring of work
    • Ensuring that the Nurture Group Teacher participates in the school's appraisal procedure
    • Ensuring Health and Safety procedures are followed in accordance with the school's policy
    • Ensuring that the Nurture Group operates within the guidelines of the LEA's policy on equal opportunities and the school's SEN policy.
    Role of the School SENCO

    To liaise with the Nurture Group team. This will include the development and implementation of IEPs; to be involved in formal reviews as required; to support curriculum development; to be involved with selection and reintegration.

    Role of the Nurture Group Teacher

    The Nurture Group Teacher is responsible for the day-to-day management of the group. The teacher has the following duties:

    • To maintain the Nurture Group principle – this is to provide a carefully routined day where there is a balance of learning and teaching, affection and structure within a home-like atmosphere.
    • To organize and plan the activities and curriculum of the classroom, bearing in mind the needs of the children.
    • To keep records of individual children's progress.
    • To coordinate the work of the Nurture Group assistant
    • To liaise with other professionals when appropriate
    • To actively work in partnership with parents in the development of their children.
    • To help children manage successfully in less structured sessions including playtimes.
    • To participate in INSET within school and the Frome Federation
    • To coordinate Steering Committee meetings
    • To carry out and contribute to school policies and procedures.
    Role of the Nurture Group Assistant

    The Nurture Group Assistant works in partnership with the Teacher. This role is to assist the Teacher in necessary tasks, including planning, and to participate in appropriate INSET.

    Monitoring and Review of Provision
    • The Nurture Group will be evaluated through OFSTED inspection.
    • The Nurture Group Steering Committee will meet to ensure the Nurture Group principle is being maintained. It will also monitor the success of the provision and provide support and guidance.


    • Amygdala Part of the limbic system that plays a major part in processing emotions and storing emotional memories
    • Attachment A two-way relationship that is formed between an infant and their primary caregiver. Secure attachment occurs where the primary caregiver is able to respond appropriately to the needs of the infant. An insecure attachment can develop when the primary caregiver is not emotionally available to the infant over a significant period of time
    • Attunement A two-way, shared, positive, emotional relationship between caregiver and infant, focused on facial expression, gestures and voice
    • Behaviourism The theory that a person's behaviour is determined by what they have learned. This means that inappropriate behaviour can be unlearned and more positive behaviour can then be learned
    • Brainstem The most primitive part of the brain that governs basic functions such as breathing
    • Cerebral cortex (neo-cortex) The part of the brain that processes what the senses perceive, and where conscious decisions are made
    • Consultation An opportunity to think together and clarify issues about particular children or situations and resolve problems
    • Containment The process of ‘holding’ another person's emotions and reflecting them back in a safe, reassuring and manageable way, to help them learn to manage their own emotions and feelings
    • Dyadic A two-way relationship between an infant and the carer
    • EBD Emotional and behavioural difficulties
    • Empathy Seeing the world through another's eyes; getting in touch with their thoughts and feelings
    • Eternal verities A set of beliefs, values and ideas that underpin successful approaches to working with children with EBD regardless of the setting
    • Inner speech The ability to talk to ourselves to aid processing of thoughts
    • Inner working model A image of oneself that determines behaviour; secure attachment allows a child to develop a positive image of itself as a worthwhile individual
    • Limbic system The emotional centres of the brain, where the brain started to be able to learn, remember and to adapt
    • Projection A defence mechanism whereby a person unconsciously vents unwanted feelings through what they do or say, onto someone else, in the belief that they are the cause of the bad feeling
    • Self-regulation The process of understanding and managing feelings and emotions, and responses to stressful situations
    • Stakeholder A person who can affect or be affected by a project


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