Nurtureuk launches manifesto for inclusive education

15 November 2019

We believe in an inclusive education system. Currently pupils with social, emotional and mental health needs are more likely to be excluded and are often unable to achieve their full potential in the classroom. We want to change that, so we’ve launched our manifesto for nurture with recommendations to ensure no pupil faces barriers to their education. 

This year marks 50 years since the first nurture group was started in Hackney, London. Marjorie Boxall, then employed as an educational psychologist by the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA), noticed that large numbers of young children were entering primary school with severe emotional, behavioural, and social difficulties. This was leading to unmanageable rates of referrals to special schools or for child guidance treatment.

At the time, these children were considered “maladapted” but Marjorie understood the difficulties presented by most of them were the outcome of impoverished early nurturing. Nurture groups were developed to provide “restorative experiences and development experiences” to these children, many of whom came from difficult socioeconomic backgrounds.

50 years on, despite many years without resourcing or support until the establishment of a formal charity in 2006, nurture provision has endured, and is now used in over 2,000 schools across the UK to  support children and young people with social, emotional and behavioural issues to access education.

Yet there are thousands of young people in the UK who are still not properly supported to engage with education. Across the UK, both formal and informal exclusions disproportionately affect the most disadvantaged students, with far higher rates of exclusion for pupils from the most deprived households.

In England in particular, recent years have seen more pupils being formally excluded from the education system, but we have also seen an increase in the use of informal exclusion of ‘off-rolling’. We know this affects children who could have been supported through nurture approaches: 1 in 4 with recognised social, emotional or mental health needs experienced at least one unexplained exit during secondary school.

According to a 2017 report from IPPR (Making The Difference: Breaking the Link Between School Exclusion and Social Exclusion) excluded pupils are “twice as likely to be in the care of the state, four times more likely to have grown up in poverty, seven times more likely to have a special educational need and 10 times more likely to suffer recognised mental health problems.”

Much has been said about the need for a good behaviour culture in school. We believe a good behaviour culture is one that recognises that all behaviour is communication and that seeks the underlying causes of difficult behaviour and acts to address them. As one nurture teacher told us:

If pupils don’t feel happy and safe within school, they won’t learn anyway, so you can carry on teaching ’till your heart’s content but they won’t take it in if they don’t feel happy, secure and their basic needs aren’t being met.”

That’s why we believe every child should have access to assessment using the Boxall Profile. The Boxall Profile is an educational psychologist-designed, teacher developed assessment tool which enables teachers to develop a precise and accurate understanding of an individual child’s social and emotional competencies and behavioural needs and the levels of their skills to access learning, in order to plan effective interventions and support activities, and monitor progress.

For more than 50 years, nurture groups have proven to be an effective intervention both in primary and secondary schools, giving vital support to some of our most vulnerable pupils to help them overcome social, emotional and behavioural difficulties. Nurture groups foster emotional wellbeing in vulnerable children, reduce aggression and incidences of withdrawn behaviour, increase educational engagement, reduce exclusions and create a more inclusive ethos in schools. We believe every child that needs it should have access to intensive support within an evidence based provision such as a nurture group.

Our whole-school National Nurturing Schools Programme is now helping schools to use the principles of nurture to focus on the emotional needs and development as well as academic learning of all students, enhancing teaching and learning and promoting healthy outcomes, resilience and improved wellbeing for all children. We believe every school should implement a whole-school approach to emotional health and wellbeing.

Nurture has momentum, but we want the benefits of nurture to reach every child in every school, and for every child who needs it to have access to the more focused intervention of a nurture group. With nurture we can build resilience, improve wellbeing and break down barriers to learning and achieving. We hope you will support us in our mission to improve the social, emotional health and behaviour of children and young people through nurture in schools.

It’s time for an inclusive education system. Through greater prioritisation of social and emotional learning and wellbeing, we can create a school system which leaves no pupil behind.

Our manifesto calls for the next government to:

  1. Enable universal access to Boxall Profile assessment
  2. Ensure there is a whole-school approach to nurture in every school
  3. Invest in evidence-based provisions to improve mental health and wellbeing in schools and intervene early to tackle difficult behaviour and reduce exclusions

Read our manifesto in full

Support our manifesto? Join our campaign by posting on social media:

I support the @nurtureuktweets manifesto for an #inclusiveeducation for children with social, emotional and behavioural needs. #nurtureforall