Nurture: what is it and why is it needed?

17 April 2023

Children and young people are dealing with social, emotional, and mental health (SEMH) issues like never before. In the UK, the need for better support was widely recognised even before the outbreak of Covid-19, but the crisis has deepened. Cost of living pressures, compounded by the continuing impact of the pandemic, mean increased stress and anxiety for many children and families. We know that 75% of children and young people who experience mental health problems aren’t getting the help they need and this severely limits their ability to learn. Pupils facing SEMH challenges can be withdrawn and isolated, suffering in silence, others display hugely challenging and disruptive behaviour that significantly affects those around them. Exclusions and persistent absenteeism are now regular features of school life. Increasing numbers of children are arriving at school distracted and distressed, if they even make it into school at all.

So why is nurture important?

What is nurture?

Nurture is a tried and tested way of helping children develop vital social skills, confidence and self-esteem, ensuring they are able to learn. It encourages pupils to take pride in achieving – addressing the social and emotional needs that can hamper learning. 

There are six principles of nurture:

The Six Principles of Nurture infographic

Why is it needed?

We’re seeing a dramatic spike in anxiety and absenteeism levels due to the impact of the pandemic and broader socio-economic challenges. This makes it incredibly hard to give children and young people the education they need and deserve. But there are proven ways to tackle this crisis and more and more schools are turning to nurture programmes to help.

Teachers need support to create safe environments that enable all pupils to build healthy relationships, and develop the confidence and resilience they need to succeed both academically and in life. We know nurture is the way to achieve this. 

“The police were always round our house – my mum was really bad on drugs at that time. My mum was never there. I was a good kid in primary school really… I started high school, and I’ll never forget, a teacher brought me and my cousin in and said “I’ve been warned about you two.” That was like a step back already, there’s already this image of me and I’ve only just started. I realised talking wasn’t doing anything so I started to live up to this name that people were giving me – “Oh you’re a fighter, you’re a badd’n.” So I started fighting and the more I fought the better I felt about myself. A few of the teachers could see I wasn’t a bad person. They took me to one side and said “What you’ve been through and your experiences in life – if you could change yourself now, it shows other kids they can do it too.” So they said to meet Michelle [the nurture teacher] and talk to her, and the way she did it was you never realised you were expressing yourself or telling your story, but you always left with a feeling of “I feel a lot better now, I’m not as angry.” It really really helped. Now I can talk to anyone and get on with anyone, but at one time I wouldn’t speak – I’d give them a stern look and leave it at that. I’m a completely different person because of nurture.” – Shane, former nurture group pupil

Nurture supports all children and young people to be able to learn, and enables teachers to identify, understand and address pupils’ social, emotional and mental health needs. A nurturing approach helps to improve attendance, behaviour and attainment, whilst creating calmer classroom environments and reducing exclusions. The outcomes can be dramatic, for children, their parents and for teachers. 

At nurtureuk, we are dedicated to improving the life chances of children and young people, by promoting nurture across the whole education system and beyond. We equip educators with the proven tools they need to deliver the right support for each pupil, ensuring they are able to thrive. For more information on nurture and how you can implement it in your school, check out our range of training courses or resources