What Is A Nurture Group?

Please click here to download our new booklet that answers the following questions:

What is a nurture group?

What are the outcomes?

Why are they needed?

How do they work?

How can I start a nurture group in my school?

How are nurture groups funded?

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 or young people in early years, primary or secondary settings supported by the whole staff group and parents. Each group is run by two members of staff. Children attend nurture groups but 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. There is great emphasis on language development and communication. Nothing is taken for granted and everything is explained, supported by role modelling, demonstration and the use of gesture as appropriate. The relationship between the two staff, always nurturing and supportive, provides a role model that children 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. Nurture groups have been working successfully for more than 40 years in the UK and now in other countries including Canada, New Zealand and Romania, and have been praised, supported and recommended by organisations such as Ofsted, Estyn and HMIE.



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Cooper, P.  and Whitebread, D. (2007). The Effectiveness of Nurture Groups: Evidence from a National Research Study.  Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, volume 12, n3 p171-190.

Cooper, Arnold, R. and Boyd, E. (2001). The effectiveness of nurture groups: preliminary research findings. British Journal of Special Education, 28 (4), 160–166.

Department for Education (2014) Mental health and behaviour in schools


Estyn (2014) Attendance in secondary schools – September 2014 http://www.estyn.gov.uk/english/docViewer/329401.8/attendance-in-secondary-schools-september-2014/?navmap=30%2C163

Gerrard, Brendan (2005). City of Glasgow Nurture Group Pilot Scheme Evaluation. Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, volume10, n4, 245-253.

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Hanson, J. et al. (2012) Structural variations in prefrontal cortex mediate the relationship between early childhood stress and spatial working memory. J Neurosci. 32(23): 7917–7925.

Hosie, Claire (2013). An Evaluation of the Impact of Nurture Provision upon Young Children, Including their Language and their Literacy Skills (Unpublished PhD thesis). East London University, United Kingdom

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National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. (2002). Community programs to promote youth development. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

O’Connor, Tina and John Colwell (2002). The effectiveness and rationale of the ‘nurture group’ approach to helping children with emotional and behavioural difficulties remain within mainstream education. British Journal of Special Education, Volume 29, Issue 2, 96–100.

OECD (2014) UK needs to tackle high cost of mental-ill health, says OECD


Office for National Statistics (2014) Which childhood factors predict low educational attainment http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/household-income/intergenerational-transmission-of-poverty-in-the-uk---eu/2014/sty-causes-of-poverty-uk.html?format=print

Ofsted (2013) The Pupil Premium: How schools are spending the funding successfully to maximise achievement

Perry, B. D. (2002) Plasticity, Memory and Cortical Modulation in the Brain http://www.childtraumaacademy.com/amazing_brain/lesson05/page02.html

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Reynolds, S., Kearney, M. and MacKay, T.  (2009). Nurture Groups: a large – scale, controlled study of effect on development and academic attainment. British Journal of Special Education, 36 (4): 204 – 212.

Scottish Government (2014) “What works to reduce crime?”

Seth-Smith, F., Netali L., Richard P., Fonagy p. and Jaffey, D. (2010). Do nurture groups improve the social, emotional and behavioural functioning of at risk children? Educational and Child Psychology, Volume 27, No 1.

Walker, L C (2010). The impact of nurture group interventions: parental involvement and perceptions (Unpublished PhD thesis). University of Sheffield, United Kingdom.


Nurture Groups in National Policy:

The Warnock Report (1978): http://www.educationengland.org.uk/documents/warnock/warnock1978.html

Green Paper: Excellence for All Children (1997):

The Steer Report (2005):

The Healthy Schools Toolkit (2012):

The Mental Health and Behaviour in Schools Report (2014):

Mind the Gap: Tackling Education Inequality in Scotland (2014):

Inclusion and Pupil Support Guidance (2006): http://learning.wales.gov.uk/docs/learningwales/publications/121128inclusionen.pdf

Nurture groups: a handbook for schools (2010):