Letter to political parties

"Prioritise inclusive education" say charity leaders and educators in joint open letter

The next government has a chance to ensure children can truly flourish at school and in life, but it must commit to bold action from the start.

As a group of educators and charity leaders, we are asking all political parties to prioritise our children’s futures and address the school absence crisis by committing to an inclusive, relational approach to education that supports children’s mental health and wellbeing.

Pupils and teachers deserve better support. School attendance is lower than ever, exclusions are high, and children are struggling with their mental health and wellbeing like never before - with a devastating impact on learning.

The growing teacher recruitment and retention crisis is leaving many pupils without the consistent teaching and relationships they so desperately need. And the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their wealthier peers is at its highest point on record.

The status quo is simply no longer working for children, families or teachers, and for our society, it’s time to do things differently.

We know that happy children learn better. In order to turn things around, the incoming government needs to put support for children’s social, emotional and mental health firmly at the top of the agenda – recognising its vital role in developing essential life skills and achieving improved school attendance and academic success.

We must create inclusive school environments where children and young people feel genuinely safe, supported and able to learn – teachers need the right tools and support to do this.

We believe:

● The SEMH needs of all pupils should be identified and addressed.

● The Department for Education should develop a fully resourced, national implementation programme to support every school, college and university to adopt a whole-school relational approach to mental health and wellbeing.

● Further research and evaluation should be commissioned to expand and deepen our knowledge of the impact nurturing, relational approaches make on pupil wellbeing, behaviour, attendance, exclusions and educational outcomes.

We want teachers to be properly supported to introduce approaches that will address the challenges preventing young people from participating in school. And a national commitment to creating inclusive, nurturing school communities.

As educators, we ask you to talk to us about what works, and help us to implement the right tools and approaches to support children’s social, emotional and mental health needs.

As charities, we ask all political parties to meet with us and draw on our knowledge to truly understand how we can support children to be happy in school and remove barriers to attendance and learning.

And as parents, we urge you to listen and act on our experiences so that every child is able to learn.

Arti Sharma
CEO, nurtureuk

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Nurturing Surrey

Nurturing Surrey

Thousands of pupils in Surrey are to be given support with their wellbeing thanks to a vital new programme. 

The Surrey Nurturing Schools Programme will be rolled out in 100 settings by the Schools Alliance for Excellence (SAfE) in partnership with ourselves, nurtureuk.

Teaching staff will be trained to use nurture - a practice that helps children develop their social and emotional skills and has been shown to improve behaviour, attendance and attainment, and reduce exclusions


There has been an almost 50% increase in the number of primary-aged pupils in Surrey suffering social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) challenges.

In 22/23 the number of pupils with SEMH challenges who were suspended increased by 68% on the same period in 21/22, and the number of those excluded has increased by 133 per cent. 

Schools are also reporting a substantial increase in the number of pupils presenting with distressing behaviour. 

The new programme will start in April and is being funded by the Mental Health Investment Fund. 

Arti Sharma, nurtureuk CEO, said: “As mental health difficulties among children and young people reach record levels, and school absences rocket, a nurturing approach in education is more essential than ever. Children and teachers must be equipped with the tools they need to succeed and this programme will ensure pupils are ready and able to learn. We’re delighted to bring nurture to Surrey and we’re looking forward to making a real difference to children’s lives by helping them flourish in school.”

Maria Dawes, SAfE CEO, said: “Children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing has never been so important. We recognise that nurturing approaches, with their rigorous evidence base, are a great investment to support inclusion and improvements to both wellbeing and learning in Surrey schools. We are really excited to be working with nurtureuk to help every child able to thrive and learn.” 

Nurturing Solihull

Nurturing Solihull

Children in Solihull are set to benefit from a vital new programme that will support their social, emotional and mental health and wellbeing. 

Nurtureuk is delighted to announce that we have been commissioned by Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council to deliver the National Nurturing Schools Programme to 54 schools across the borough. The programme will be delivered across four cohorts, with the first cohort starting this month. 

Teacher in workshop with group of secondary school students

The council is funding schools to participate in the programme, utilising their Delivering Better Value in SEND grant from the Department for Education. 

This follows a successful pilot programme with three Solihull schools who started the National Nurturing Schools Programme in January 2023.

The programme aims to improve whole school approaches to social, emotional and mental health needs, with a specific focus on improving outcomes for children and young people with SEND. It will complement two other strands of work to deliver on the council’s inclusion strategy.

Addressing the school absence emergency

A teacher sitting with students at a table

Addressing the school absence emergency

The launch of London's Inclusion Charter was a powerful reminder of the need to ensure children are safe and supported in school. 

The charter is part of the London Violence Reduction Unit’s work to drive up attendance and tackle rising school suspensions and absenteeism. It has been built on the voice and experience of young people and teachers. 

Inspirational speakers and an impressive panel made for an uplifting launch event on Tuesday. It was wonderful to be in a room full of organisations and individuals who are striving to be the change they want to see. 

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Stark picture

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan shared some stark data, revealing the equivalent of 1,430 children lost learning in London each day in 2021/22 due to suspension or persistent absenteeism – up 71 per cent on pre-pandemic levels in 2018/19.

Lived experience

The real-life impact of statistics like this was brought home by two brave young people who shared their own experiences of exclusion. It was heartbreaking to hear just how disempowering their school lives had been. They went unheard in education and no time was taken to understand the why behind their actions or behaviours. Both of these young people later found adults who listened to them and created support networks that allowed them to flourish and become inspirational role models themselves.

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The need for action

Sadly, we know this is not how the story ends for many young people who are excluded from school, or find themselves unable to attend. Tens of thousands of children in England are now regularly missing school. The link between attendance and educational outcomes is well understood - but attainment is just one part of the story. Children who are not in education are also at increased risk of violence and exploitation and face potentially dire consequences for their futures. 

Mental health challenges, the effects of trauma and adverse childhood experiences, and special educational needs are just some of the factors contributing to the attendance crisis, – all issues that have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and its lasting impacts. Traditional teaching methods are simply no longer working for our pupils.

But as we heard on Tuesday, there is something that can be done. Headteacher Sonia Potter described how nurture has transformed school life for pupils, teachers and parents at Norbury Manor Primary School in London, creating a safe and welcoming environment and fostering a culture of learning and growth. 

Her story is one we hear every day from schools and teachers across the UK. We know the difference nurture provision makes. 

What is nurture?

Nurture is a way of relating to children that develops their social and emotional skills and ensures they’re ready and able to learn. There are six principles of nurture, based on creating safe environments for children, understanding that all behaviour is communication and ensuring that children are understood and related to in line with their developmental stage. Nurture is a relational approach and it helps children build strong connections with teachers and peers and positive attachments to school. It helps create a sense of belonging and strong school communities - a vital part of ensuring schools are places that children want to spend time in. 

As Tracey Crouch MP said on a recent visit to a nurturing school in Kent: This is about kindness. It's about community, it's about friendship.” 

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What we want to see

Understanding and properly supporting children’s wellbeing plays a crucial role in improving attendance. That’s why at nurtureuk we’re calling on policymakers to make nurture the norm, and tackle the attendance crisis by supporting children to be #HappyInSchool, ready to learn and achieve their potential. 

Arti Sharma, CEO, nurtureuk 

Nurtureuk achieves the international standard for information security management

Nurtureuk is proud to announce that it has achieved certification to ISO27001, the international standard for information security management.

ISO accreditation certificate

To achieve certification, we have successfully completed a detailed two-stage audit with an external auditor looking at every aspect of how we manage systems, protect the data we hold, and progressively improve how we manage information.

Achieving the ISO standard shows the effectiveness of our approach to handling information, from recruiting and developing team members, to managing access to our systems, and making sure data is backed up continuously.

We know that we are trusted by schools, local authorities and other partner organisations to securely hold data on children and young people on the Boxall Profile® Online platform, as well as other confidential information. We take this responsibility extremely seriously. Achieving ISO27001 certification reflects our commitment to provide services that our partners can have full confidence in.

Labour Party Conference – An Inclusive Approach to Tackling Exclusions and the School Absence Crisis

By Arti Sharma, CEO, nurtureuk 

Nurtureuk hosted its first fringe event at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool this month and how heartening it was to be in a room full of individuals who absolutely get that ‘happy children learn better’.

The event was chaired by Anne Longfield CBE, Chair of the Commission on Young Lives, and I was joined on the panel by Lib Peck, Director of London’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU), and Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Deputy Mayor of Hackney and Cabinet member for Education, Children and Young People. My fellow panellists couldn’t have been any clearer about the desperate need for an education system that truly values, respects and nurtures all our children and young people. 

As Anne outlined: “An increasing number of children are falling through the gaps in education and not surprisingly it’s the most vulnerable children who are the most affected”. We now have a quarter of children – that’s one day in ten who are persistently absent from school. She also highlighted that we are seeing more and more children being suspended or excluded as they can’t cope in the classroom. Surely, this can’t be right and an accepted state of being for our children.

Four women sitting next to each other at a table

Lib Peck shared how she took a group of young people (part of the VRU’s Young People’s Action Group) to share their diverse views on the current and future education system and it was clear that culturally we fail to talk to young people about issues that affect them directly. 

Lib said: “Children and young people can’t thrive in systems that are unadaptable or inflexible – what young people want to see is more emphasis on mental health, relationships, safe spaces and the ability to express themselves and a more rounded education system”. 

The VRU team are acutely aware of the dangers of exploitation that can occur during the hours of 3-10pm when children are not in school. 

Cllr Bramble represents Hackney, where nurture began over 50 years ago. As a SENCO in her previous working life, she completed nurtureuk training in the Theory and Practice of Nurture Groups. So she truly understands that “education only works if children feel loved, safe, secure and happy”. She further pointed out that “academic accolades and great results are not as impactful if we don’t have well-grounded human beings that feel confident with hope”. 

As the panel highlighted, an inclusive education system is a vital part of a successful society that allows children and young people to truly flourish and ultimately results in better outcomes for us all. 

I believe that nurture is the way to create that system. 

Nurture is a tried and tested, proven way of relating to children – based on established principles – that builds up their self esteem, develops their social and emotional skills and ensures they are ready to learn. It centres on identifying and meeting children’s social and emotional needs. Happy children learn better. And children can’t learn effectively if they don’t have the right social and emotional skills to do so. 

When schools do nurture well, and pupils’ SEMH needs are identified and addressed, the effect is transformative. Attendance improves, exclusions reduce and behaviour and attainment is better. But sadly, nurture is not yet the norm. 

And it does require dedication, commitment and consistency. 

We speak to teachers every day who tell us that our programmes are exactly what they’ve been looking for – and they haven’t arrived a moment too soon. I’m thinking particularly of those schools participating in our INS Programme funded by the VRU – who are really struggling in the aftermath of some horrific situations and who are desperately searching for a way to properly support their pupils and ensure that despite everything they can still get through the school gate, they can still come into the classroom, and they can keep learning. 

When a school adopts nurture, this is what happens, and the school becomes a place people truly want to be – both children and teachers. I was in a school in London just recently where the headteacher spoke powerfully about how nurture had turned things around. How exclusions were lower than ever, how attendance was where it had never been before, where relationships with parents and amongst staff were blossoming.

That’s why we’re calling for teachers to be properly trained, supported and required to identify and meet children’s social and emotional needs. 

As we closed our party conference session, the packed room of attendees shared our collective vision and said they felt hopeful that a future where inclusive education and nurture could be the norm was a future worth fighting for.

By Arti Sharma, CEO, nurtureuk 


Boxall Profile® Online Autumn 2023 Update

A laptop displaying the Boxall Profile Online on the screen

The Boxall Profile® Online is an invaluable online teaching resource for the assessment of children and young people’s social, emotional and behavioural development.

At nurtureuk we continue on our mission to improve the Boxall Profile® Online, to make it an even more powerful assessment tool for schools and educational settings to assess, plan, track and help improve the social, emotional, mental health and wellbeing of their children and young people.

After listening to user feedback we have been working hard over the summer months to update the Boxall Profile® Online and we’re excited to share these updates with you.

What’s new?
Introduction to Boxall Profile® Online Course now included with every new and renewed subscription

To help every user get the most out of their Boxall Profile® Online subscription we have added 10 tokens with each subscription to access the Introduction to Boxall Profile® Online Course. Once a subscription is purchased, the organisation will find the code in the Subscriptions & Payments section of their account. 

The code can be used by up to 10 users within an organisation (individual access) and usage is tracked in the Subscriptions & Payments section of their account. This is applicable for all new and renewed subscriptions purchased from Wednesday 13th September 2023.

NEW Import Function

We have introduced a way for organisations to import their pupil data through our new Import Function. This will allow organisations to bulk upload their pupil data and allocate to the correct classes. This new function will hopefully save settings and educators valuable time and resources.

NEW Archive Function 

We have developed a simple way for you to archive an organisation’s older pupil data so that the data viewed in the Whole School, Classes & Groups is relevant and representative of the current students. 

UPDATES to Data Filtering and Summary Overview

We have also updated the date filtering on the Whole School Data and added the additional profile fields to the Summary Overview export to help with data analysis and measurement of progress.

To find out more please read our product update blog series at www.boxallprofile.org.

Here at nurtureuk we are committed to the ongoing development of the Boxall Profile® Online, to support Educational professionals in understanding the underlying needs of children and young people and to improve wellbeing and access to education for all.

Find out more by clicking here.


Why we need to prioritise children and young people’s mental health

A female teacher sitting with a group of school children at a table

Today is World Mental Health Day and the purpose of it is to raise the awareness of mental health and drive positive change for the future. 

This annual awareness day is run by the Mental Health Foundation, the UK’s leading charity for everyone’s mental health. They drive positive change towards a mentally healthy society for all. They aim to find and address the sources of mental health problems in order for people and communities to thrive.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, “75% of children and young people who experience mental health problems aren’t getting the help they need”. This is a growing concern and it needs to be acted upon as soon as possible. The consequences of not addressing the mental health development of children and young people can extend to adulthood which can limit their opportunities of leading a fulfilling life.

Schools need to prioritise children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing, after all this is at the heart of education. Inclusive approaches to education can support pupil’s mental health and wellbeing which in turn can help to keep them in school. Increasing amounts of children are absent from school every year and we need to do all we can to get them back into school.

We recently co-hosted a panel at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool, in which the panel discussions centred around inclusive approaches and tackling exclusions at school. The panel consisted of a great line-up of speakers, including the Chair of Commission on Young Lives; Anne Longfield, the Director of London’s Violence Reduction Unit; Lib Peck, Cabinet Member for Education; Cllr Anntionette Bramble, and our CEO Arti Sharma. It was an invigorating discussion about how nurturing approaches can positively impact pupils’ mental health and wellbeing so that they can remain in school and succeed with their education. It was recommended at the conference that more schools should adopt a whole-school nurturing approach. This can be the positive change that children and young people so desperately need.

The priority of schools should be to meet children and young people’s social, emotional and mental health needs. Many children and young people have experienced significant trauma in their lives, including bereavement, neglect and abuse, or witnessing parents experiencing mental health problems or substance abuse. All of these experiences can negatively affect their mental health. As a result, they may have difficulties with attention, learning and emotional control. These difficulties may translate into aggression, anger outbursts and challenging behaviours. 

With sufficient nurture and support from adults, children can develop the skills and resilience they need to cope with stressful experiences and improve their mental health, in turn allowing them to become ready to learn at school.

To find out more about the nurturing approach and why we recommend implementing it across the whole school, please click here.

Helping children and young people return to school

Four school children in a classroom

Children and young people are struggling with social, emotional and mental health issues like never before. For some children, the summer holidays will have made these issues worse, and they will be experiencing higher levels of stress and anxiety as they return to school. For others it’s the return to school that is the cause of anxiety. It is vital that all children are sufficiently supported at the start of the new academic year so they are ready and able to learn. 

How can you support pupils with their social, emotional and mental health needs?

There are many different reasons why children and young people may be anxious about returning to school. They may be nervous about having different classmates and trying to make friends, or may be struggling with homework or lessons, or even having difficulty building relationships with teachers. For some children, the school environment itself can cause them lots of stress. If this is the case for some pupils, then we recommend setting up nurture groups in your school. 

Nurture groups are a targeted intervention for children and young people with social, emotional, behavioural and/or mental health difficulties. They support pupils to form attachments to caring and supportive adults at school. Nurture groups help pupils to feel safe at school which is one of the Six Principles of Nurture, and can lead to improved behaviour which in turn can help to reduce exclusions. Nurture provision can help to remove the barriers to learning and enable children to overcome challenges so they can succeed at school.

The start of school may be especially challenging for children who are entering a transition year from primary to secondary school. The move to secondary school is one of the biggest shifts in a child’s education. Children will experience a change of classes and teachers, an increase in school size and staff numbers, different teaching styles and a wider curriculum.

To ensure a smooth and successful transition to secondary school, we recommend taking a look at The Transition Tool Box resource by Dr Tina Rae, which includes a wide range of strategies and activities for supporting children through this transition process. Teachers and parents can help by planning a child’s transition, making strong connections and establishing new routines. 

Making the transition from home to school will be harder for children that have social, emotional and behavioural issues. Schools should monitor the social, emotional and mental health needs of all pupils and address them at an early stage. The Boxall Profile® allows teachers to understand a child’s social and emotional competencies, and to plan effective interventions and support activities where needed. 

The Boxall Profile® can generate unique lesson plans tailored to each child’s specific social, emotional and mental health needs which can help educational professionals to support and promote the emotional wellbeing of children and young people. Once the social and developmental targets for each pupil have been met, the pupil can then be reintegrated into their mainstream class. 

By using the Boxall Profile® and implementing a nurturing intervention at the start of the new school year, you can get to the heart of a child’s challenges and support them to build connections and resilience. It is a highly effective way of supporting improved behaviour and increased attendance in schools, leading to better attainment and reduced exclusions. With the right support, children can successfully adjust to their new school or class, build new relationships, learn new skills, and thrive. 

For more information about the benefits of the Boxall Profile® and to purchase a subscription, please visit our Boxall Profile® website


“Just naughty”: the impact of understanding underlying needs

5 children sitting together at school opposite a female teacher

We know that a nurturing approach can have an incredible effect on the lives of children and young people, and we love to hear about the real-life impact it has in the schools we work with. The following case study was from a school on our Nurturing London Violence Reduction Unit Programme which finished in 2022. The storyteller is the head of inclusion and leads a nurture specialist support centre in North London. 


Our school had already embarked on a journey to transform our behaviour policy towards a much more nurturing approach that reflected our values and objectives as a school. My role was to facilitate this transformation with our members of staff, so when the programme came along I recognised the potential for what was offered to help us move the transformation along. The big difference for me was that this was tried-and-tested practice that provided a solid evidence base going back 50 years; I knew that having the kind of evidence you can’t argue with would help to convince some reluctant staff members that there was value and merit in adopting a more nurturing and trauma-informed approach to understanding and dealing with behaviour. Before we joined the programme, there were pockets of excellent nurturing practice already happening in the school, but this was by no means across the board.

Our school is lucky to have a Therapeutic Wellbeing Practitioner on staff who works with both children and staff. All staff had received previous training in supporting our pupils’ social and emotional development but I noticed that it was the ethos of individual teachers who were naturally more nurturing in their approach that was making a difference with individual pupils. 

I feel that the main internal barrier we had as a school in terms of becoming more nurturing, was the fixed behaviourist mindset that many staff had in understanding behaviour. Some staff had pre-existing opinions about nurture somehow being a “soft approach that is all about cuddles”. This attitude, as well as the pressures to deliver the curriculum which is target based, left little inclination or time for staff to consider a more nurturing approach.

Additionally, the pandemic and resulting lockdowns and bubbles was a really big challenge to our whole school community. We experienced illness, with many of our staff becoming unwell and we also experienced loss, with two of our pupils losing parents to the virus.

There were three elements of the programme that were key to our school becoming a more nurturing place – training, resources and the relationship we have built with our nurtureuk consultant. The Wellbeing Box of resources was very well received by staff and pupils in our nurture centre, particularly the puppets. We find these very useful in communicating with our pupils and a useful tool to facilitate conversations and give pupils an effective way to voice their feelings and emotions. 

Completing the Theory and Practice of Nurture Groups training fortified and solidified our practice in the nurture centre and gave me the confidence and knowledge to set up the physical environment in the most effective way. The course gave us the building blocks to inform more nurturing thinking and gave us the knowledge to explore the factors behind behaviour and to discuss and find solutions in-house. I found the relationship we built with our nurtureuk consultant through the project to be really helpful and this was also true for the wider staff who met her during training sessions. They felt that they could approach someone with specialist knowledge who could provide advice and answers for our specific context.

After we completed the nurture group training, I noticed positive changes in the way we practised in the nurture centre. This was especially evident in the work of the nursery nurses now as they are more empowered to integrate the curriculum into the daily practice. We discuss the planning for individual pupils together as a team and each staff member supports each other in implementing the plans, which is much more effective.

Having access to the Boxall Profile® Online has made it quick and easy for us to access and complete assessments for the pupils placed in our provision for a usual period of 12 weeks. The information from the Boxall Profile®, particularly from the Developmental Strands, makes it possible for us to focus the support and identify strategies that will be effective. Using the information, we are able to understand the complex needs behind the behaviour preventing the pupil from attending their mainstream classes at the time that they come to us. We are able to communicate to the school and the parents some of that insight into understanding the need better and we are also able to set expectations about the progress we hope to make in the time that the pupil is with us.

One of our pupils attended a mainstream school where the staff body had very little knowledge and experience of nurture. As a result of this, they had not managed to identify any of his underlying needs and was labelled as “just naughty” when he started with us. He was very explosive and appeared to need to maintain absolute control with both the adults and the other children in the classroom. He had a complicated family environment where there was a history of addiction and also a history of learning difficulties. We were able to identify his strengths very early on and were able to work with these as well as establishing a warm and positive relationship with his parents. Our knowledge and our willingness to find solutions has really paid off and he is a great success story of someone who would likely have been excluded from his mainstream environment and been seen as a failure. His success in our environment has seen him accepted at a smaller one-form entry school that has an established nurturing ethos, which was facilitated by our staff. His parents are overjoyed seeing his progress and seeing him settled in an environment where he will thrive. 


We are delighted to have been commissioned by the London Violence Reduction Unit to deliver a new programme alongside delivery partners Tender. The Inclusive and Nurturing Schools Programme aims to tackle school exclusions across 70 schools in seven London Boroughs. 

If you’d like to find out more about our nurture training, please visit our website.