Nurture groups are small classes for pupils with behavioural, social or emotional difficulties. They provide an environment in schools where pupils can build trust in adults, and gain the skills they need to rejoin larger classes.
In the report, Ofsted said that nurture groups ‘significantly modified pupils’ behaviour’, and ‘improved pupils’ social, emotional and behavioural skills’ when they are well run and staff are appropriately trained. They also improved attendance and helped pupils to reintegrate into mainstream classes.
Ofsted also said that parents welcomed the changes that they saw in their children after a period attending a nurture group. One parent said, ‘he has that sparkle back again’; another commented that ‘the nurture group has simply turned him around’.
But Ofsted warned that nurture groups need more support from the government. The report concluded that the Department of Education and local authorities should help schools to provide nurture groups for pupils with behavioural, emotional and social needs.
Irene Grant, Director of the Nurture Group Network, said: "The report confirms what we've seen for a long time: that nurture groups help many vulnerable children to achieve their potential. At a time when we are all worried about the challenges facing young people, nurture groups help children overcome a difficult start in life."
Marion Bennathan, Life President of the Nurture Group Network, said: “There is a lot in the Ofsted report to encourage the Nurture Group Network in its efforts to spread knowledge of the power of nurture groups. Particularly pleasing is the repeated recognition of the way parents value the groups, so that with support they become confident in their role as parents and real partners in their child's education. This will have long-term effects on their family life and on the wider society.”
Barbara Knowles, Executive Director of the Social, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties Association (SEBDA), said: “Nurture groups are a great way of helping children who are struggling to cope with mainstream classes. We need many more of them across the country, so it’s not just something that’s helps the few who are fortunate to have one in their school.”
“They also offer excellent value for money both for schools and for taxpayers”, Knowles continued, “as investing in helping children in Key Stages 1 and 2 can help head off much greater problems later on.”
Ofsted’s report follows an academic study of nurture groups in Glasgow, which found that the groups helped pupils to address emotional and behavioural needs more effectively than mainstream classes.
Ofsted’s report, ‘Supporting children with challenging behaviour through a nurture group approach’ is published on Tuesday 12 July. It is based on inspections of 29 nurture groups, in infant, first, and primary schools.
Nurture groups typically contain between eight to 12 pupils. There are around 1500 nurture groups in the UK, including 110 in Wales.
Training and support for nurture groups is provided by the Nurture Group Network: www.nurturegroups.org