Scottish Parliament publicly support Nurture Groups in parliamentary debate

13 February 2017 - Elisa Mascellani, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer

On Thursday 9th February, Scottish Parliament announced ‘Nurture Week’, which runs from 13 to 19 February 2017, with the aim to showcasing the importance of nurture and attachment in child development.

In the debate, Stuart McMillan, MSP for Greenock and Inverclyde called for the “Scottish Government to look favourably on investing in further nurture groups across Scotland” and that “all schools should use the Boxall Profile to better understand and support the social, emotional and behavioural needs of their children”.

The Minister for Public Health and Sport, Aileen Campbell supported the use of the Boxall Profile to be used as part of a child’s plan. And Monica Lennon, MSP for Central Scotland, called for more focus and attention to be given in adopting attachment and nurture-based approached in the early years and for this to be reflected in the forthcoming mental health strategy.

Our recommendation for Nurture in Scotland

There are currently over 300 nurture groups in Scotland. This is a ratio of 1 nurture group for every 8.3 schools, the best ratio in the UK. However, more can be done to ensure that Scotland children are supported further in schools. A recent evaluation of the Northern Ireland Signature Project by the Queen’s University Belfast found it 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 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.

Given the Scottish Government’s commitment to closing the attainment gap and ensuring that an unequal start in life does not mean an unequal chance to engage with learning, we urge the government to ensure all Scottish children have access to targeted 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 Annual Scottish Conference “Teaching and learning for children with social, emotional and mental health issues" on Friday 24th February please click here.