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"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit."
Nurture Groups gained popularity in the 1970s as an effective intervention for children who had experienced a developmentally impoverished early life. The Inner London Education Authority funded numerous groups throughout London and children with a range of social and emotional difficulties remained in mainstream school and made progress through this support. During the late 1980s and early 1990s nurture groups fell out of favour and funding dried up. Thankfully there has now been a return to nurture groups with some parts of the U.K. investing heavily on training for staff and setting up groups. There are now over 1500 nurture groups in the U.K. in primary and secondary schools.
Research from the last ten years sets out clear evidence that nurture groups provide an effective and cost efficient intervention for children who are struggling in mainstream school. There are five nonrandomised studies that have researched the effectiveness of nurture group provision. They compared improvements in social and emotional functioning and academic progress for children with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties (SEBD) in nurture groups compared to students with SEBD that remained in their mainstream classroom. The studies, which included 1239 students, 89 schools with nurture group provision and 50 without, show that students with SEBD are significantly more likely to improve in social and emotional functioning and academic achievement by attending NG provision for at least two terms rather than remaining in their mainstream classroom. This was true for both full-time and part-time nurture group models. Two of the three studies that analysed academic attainment for both case and control groups showed a statistically significant advantage in academic progress for students who attended a nurture group compared to those that remained in the mainstream classroom (www.nurturegroups.org).
So if there is an effective, clearly evidenced and cost efficient intervention for children with social and emotional difficulties available, why are we not using it more in Croydon and the South East? For the past eight years in Croydon the concept of nurture has been slowly gathering ground and most Headteachers and Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinators are aware of the basic principles. Signs of success include the rise of part time nurture groups, certified training that has been available on an annual basis, termly meetings of the Croydon Nurturing Network and capital funding provided by Croydon Council that enabled five schools to set up a nurture group. Barriers to setting up nurture groups include a lack of suitably trained staff, lack of appropriate space and the initial financial challenges but maybe the biggest barrier is simply that we are afraid to give nurture groups a chance. Decision makers in schools may be reluctant to change the approaches their school takes but it is difficult to argue with the impact that nurture groups are having. Come on Croydon let’s catch up with the rest of the U.K.!
Want to know more about Nurture Groups and setting up a provision at your school? The Nurture Group Network have published a booklet which tells you everything you need to know about Nurture groups which can be found here.
Here at Octavo we also deliver a range of training to support schools interested in setting up their own Nurture Groups or those with existing groups:
Nurture Forum Meeting – Autumn 2017 – 22 Nov, 14:00 – 16:00
Theory and Practice of Nurture 3 day certificate course – 05-06 Dec & 22 Feb, 09:30 – 16:00
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