Spotlight on the research of Jacqueline Perkins published in Vol 3. of IJNE

12th June 2017

Last week The Nurture Group Network published the 3rd Volume of the International Journal of Nurture in Education, a special edition focusing on practitioner-led research.

Today we introduce the work of Jacqueline Perkins, who conducted a small scale research project in her secondary school, with the aim to improve practice and get a better understanding of the individual needs of the pupils.

Her article makes a valuable contribution to research on nurture, first because it illustrates the impact of a nurture group in a secondary setting – which is rarely discussed in the literature, but also because it highlights the benefits action research can have on teachers and on the whole school. Her article is freely available here.

The study
Jacqueline is a special needs teacher who has been running a nurture group in her secondary school since 2008. For every cohort from 2008-9 till 2011-12, she collected Boxall Profile data to estimate changes in social emotional behavioural difficulties (SEBD) in Year 7 pupils who attended the nurture group. She also compared pupils’ perceptions, attendance and attainment between students who attended a nurture group and students who had similar Key Stage 2 results but who did not receive nurture provision. Finally, parental comments and staff questionnaires allowed her to assess adults’ perception of the impact of the nurture group.  

What were the outcomes of the nurture group?

The Boxall scores showed that most pupils who attended the nurture group had improved social emotional functioning (Figure 1).

Questionnaires given to the nurture group children showed they felt more confident, were trying harder in lessons and had more positive feelings about school than their peers in the mainstream classes.

The parental comments collected every fortnight were overwhelmingly positive and reflected that improvements in the social emotional skills observed in the nurture group often impacted the home environment as well.

Questionnaires given to staff also proved very positive. A majority thought the nurture group pupils were achieving on skills and abilities to a greater extent and more frequently than the comparison group pupils. For example, they were more enthusiastic about lessons, more compliant with rules (e.g. following instructions, settling to work, listening to the teacher) and better able to complete homework and class work.

However, there were also areas where some of the staff felt there might be room for improvement including being organized with materials, participating in class, being able to concentrate, showing confidence and being able to work independently.

With regard to academic results, the academic progress of the nurture group students varied, as each year contained a small group and individual needs differed considerably from one year to another. Those who had marked SEBD needs found it more difficult to maintain progress towards the target grade although many pupils had managed to maintain progress and in English lessons they were able to develop key skills essential for GCSE work. The results showed that the nurture group cohort did broadly maintain the same levels as the comparison group cohort.

What were the outcomes of conducting the research?
Jacqueline highlighted several outcomes from conducting her research project. First, she was able to learn about what was working successfully for the nurture group and where there was room for development. For example, areas which did not show substantial improvements were targeted during the nurture group sessions and meant that students could further practice the skills essential for functioning in school.

Investigating the impact of the nurture group contributed to the school improvement plan. For example, further pupil support was also built in for those leaving the nurture group to consolidate the development they had made.

Conducting the research helped Jacqueline realise the importance of investigating the impact of the nurture group using a variety of data (parental views, pupils’ perceptions, quantitative Boxall Profiles, etc.). This allowed her to capture not only changes in SEBD needs but also more subjective improvements following the nurture group intervention.  

Finally, she reports that conducting the research also had an impact on the whole school. The pastoral system became more attuned to the needs of the pupils and the nurture principles were embedded in the school ethos. The governors were also made aware of the benefits of the nurture group.

Conclusion
Overall, the action research completed by Jacqueline Perkins allowed her to document the impact of the nurture group, both identifying positive outcomes as well as areas requiring further improvement. In addition to benefiting the nurture group, the research also had a wider influence on the school, contributing to the school improvement plan and raising awareness about nurture’s impact across the whole school.  

Jacqueline’s paper is a great example of how action research can benefit a wide range of school stakeholders – including the nurture pupils, staff and governors. NGN hopes that more and more practitioners will conduct small-scale research projects to evaluate their practice, document the impact of their work and feedback the information to the whole school.  

If you would like to know more about Jacqueline’s research, you can access the full article here. For specific questions on her work, you can contact her at spikeynorm@btinternet.com. For general questions regarding nurture research, you can contact Dr Florence Ruby at florence@nurtureuk.org.