Northern Ireland Assembly continues nurture group funding

By our Policy and Public Affairs Officer, Elisa Mascellani

16th November 2016

There was overwhelming support for nurture groups in the Northern Ireland Assembly yesterday, and a unanimous ‘aye’ from the Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) in supporting the “mainstreaming” of funding for nurture groups.  This decision allows the 32 nurture groups in areas of high deprivation that the Northern Ireland government has been supporting to continue receiving government funding and calls for the opening of more nurture groups across the country.

The decision was based on sound evidence from Queen’s University Belfast’s recent evaluation report on: ‘The Impact and Cost Effectiveness of Nurture Groups in Primary Schools in Northern Ireland’. This independent evaluation found nurture groups provision to be “highly successful in its primary aim of achieving improvements in the social, emotional and behavioural skills of children from deprived areas exhibiting significant difficulties” and “cost effective with the potential to result in a significant saving to the education system and an even greater return to society.”

The motion to make the funding for nurture groups more sustainable was strongly supported by Education Minister, Peter Weir who said: “I have taken a keen interest in nurture since my days on the Education Committee. It has always been an issue that members have recognised as an effective means of supporting our most vulnerable children.” He went on to say : “I could not ignore the fact that nurture has demonstrated that it is a proven, outcome-driven intervention that transforms children’s lives and I will be ambitious in planning for a new programme and vocal in fighting for the resources to deliver it."

What next for Nurture in Northern Ireland?

The Minister stated his commitment to have “new additional nurture groups operational by 2018-19”, and added that he hopes to have a “new nurture programme next year” and to extend nurture to all schools who wish to embrace a whole-school nurturing approach.

The six principles of nurture are designed to be adapted to the needs of the child and their environment. In some cases this means  support through nurture groups but often the most appropriate solution is a nurturing school.  

The National Nurturing Schools programme uses the six principles that underpin traditional nurture groups across a whole school environment, ensuring the schools focus on emotional needs and development as well as academic learning. It allows staff to develop personally and professionally, whilst embedding a nurturing culture throughout their schools, enhancing teaching and learning, promoting healthy outcomes for children and young people.

In the next crucial months, we urge the Minister and his Department to consider the most effective ways to ensure all Northern Ireland children have access to nurturing interventions. 

If you’d like more information, the Queens University Belfast’s evaluation report can be found here.  Or if you can join us at our upcoming Northern Ireland conference “Where now for Northern Ireland Nurture?” on Tuesday 29th November please click here.