How a graduated approach to nurture can support all pupils' wellbeing

2 February 2018 


The Nurture Portrait 2016/17 launched this week revealing that one in three children in primary schools are experiencing some form of social emotional or behavioural difficulties, and too few of these pupils receive any kind of support. Download the full report here

Despite schools being aware of the importance of wellbeing and its impact on learning, many feel poorly equipped to answer the needs of their pupils and struggle to provide adequate interventions and effective support. 

Our last recommendation from the Nurture Portrait urges schools across the UK to adopt a graduated approach to nurture, so that all children and young people can benefit from nurture and can receive the appropriate level of support they need. 

A graduated approach to nurture in education consists of two core components.

First, the concept of nurture in education recognises that pupils' wellbeing is as important as their academic achievements, and that schools can play a key role in supporting the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people. Nurturing values should permeate across all school levels so that everyone's wellbeing is taken into account - pupils, staff and leadership. By applying nurturing principles across the whole school, everyone can benefit from being in a nurturing and safe environment, where everyone's wellbeing is recognised and supported. 

As a graduated approach, this means that different nurturing interventions can then be put in place on top of the whole-school nurturing ethos, to answer the specific needs of pupils according to the level of difficulty they are experiencing. This may be nurture groups, nurture groups + (for the most vulnerable children) or other nurturing structures for children who have sub-threshold needs. See Figure 1. 

To support a graduated approach to nurture, schools need to be aware of the levels of difficulty every child and young person is experiencing. This is why NGN recommends schools to complete whole-school assessments of pupils' social emotional wellbeing, to ensure that needs are identified and answered early. 

Figure 1. The Nurture Pyramid is the model NGN uses to map out the different levels encompassed in the graduated approach to nurture. At the bottom tier, all pupils should be assessed using the Boxall Profile so that their needs can be identified and answered early; at the very top, the most vulnerable pupils should receive targeted 1-to-1 interventions such as Nurture Groups +. 


NGN campaigns for all schools in the UK to adopt a graduated approach to nurture, so that all children and young people can benefit from nurture and can receive the appropriate level of support they need. 

To help schools achieve this, NGN offers the National Nurturing Schools Programme that allows staff to develop personally and professionally while embedding a nurturing culture throughout their schools, enhancing teaching and learning, promoting healthy outcomes for children and young people. This is achieved by focusing on emotional needs and development as well as academic learning in a whole school environment.


To know more about the National Nurturing Schools Programme, you can contact Lea Verlaguet, NGN's Operations Manager at

To know more about the Nurture Portrait 2016/17 and our recommendations, you can download the full report here or get in touch with Dr Florence Ruby, NGN's Researcher, at