Topics of interest for research on nurture in education

19 October 2017 - Dr Florence Ruby 


Over the recent years, research on nurture in education has made great progress, generating more evidence than ever about nurture groups and nurture practice. Despite the increase in literature surrounding nurture in education, several areas of research remain unexplored.

We’ve summarised below different areas that would benefit from having a stronger evidence base. Researchers and students doing Masters or Doctorates are welcome to contact nurtureuk to discuss the different topics and identify how research projects could be built around them.

Effectiveness of nurture groups in secondary settings
A lot of evidence currently available shows that nurture groups in primary settings have a strong impact on the SEMH of children. However, limited evidence is available about secondary nurture groups (have a look at our summary of studies available up to 2017). A better understanding of the best practices and the impact secondary nurture groups can have through large scale evaluations would be very timely.

Role of parents and care takers
Children coming to nurture may make progress while being in school, but frequently go back home to difficult environments. How can nurture practitioners best engage with parents and care takers to ensure that what is learnt in the nurture group is also encouraged at home? What barriers may exist between families and schools that could prevent a nurture intervention from being effective?

Nurture for children with special needs
More studies need to investigate the impact a nurturing intervention can have on children with special needs. How do children on the autism spectrum / with learning difficulties / with mental health disorders / etc. can benefit from nurture? What can be achieved through nurture for children with SEN, and how nurturing approaches could be adapted to better suit the needs of these children?

Whole-school nurture approach
More and more schools work towards spreading the nurture principles across the whole school environment, rather than confining it to the nurture room. Many case studies have shown the positive impact such an approach can have on the atmosphere and wellbeing of children, but more robust evidence needs to be generated to better understand the best practices and processes that allow the intervention to be effective, as well as the overall impact across the school.  

Longitudinal studies 
Many studies have evaluated the impact of nurture over a few terms, but have not explored the long-term outcomes of the interventions. Do children in nurture groups have social emotional skills and learning outcomes a year / 2 years / 5 years later? Demonstrating that children who attend nurture groups learn essential skills that will benefit them throughout their education and later in life will strongly reinforce nurture’s evidence base.   

Impact on cognitive skills and learning outcomes
Evidence currently available strongly focuses on the impact of nurture on the social emotional competence and wellbeing of children and young people. A few studies have investigated whether nurture leads to improved learning outcomes, but again more robust evidence of the long-term impact on attainment would be very beneficial. Studies investigating the consequences of nurture on working memory, attention, memory and other cognitive skills would also be valuable.

Of course this list is not exhaustive, and many additional topics would deserve more attention from researchers!

If you are interested in conducting research on any of these topics and would like some advice, or you are thinking about generating evidence for nurture in education, we’d love to hear from you! Please contact Dr Florence Ruby at