The impact of a whole-school approach to nurture

20 June 2023

Children and young people are struggling with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs like never before. According to the Mental Health Foundation, 75% of children and young people who experience mental health problems aren’t getting the support they need. This greatly affects pupils’ ability to engage with education and learn effectively, which often leads to a decline in school attendance, attainment and behaviour.

More and more schools are turning to nurturing interventions to help address these issues. The nurturing approach is a tried and tested way of helping children and young people develop the vital social skills, confidence and self-esteem needed to help them engage with education. It helps teachers to identify, understand and address individual pupils’ needs, and gives them the tools they need to provide the right support. 

But what does a whole-school approach to nurture look like?

A whole-school approach to nurture involves embedding the Six Principles of Nurture throughout the school and assessing all children and young people’s social, emotional and mental health needs using the Boxall Profile®. A nurturing approach can have the greatest impact when it’s not used in isolation, as it ensures every pupil gets the right support. 

The whole-school approach forms the second stage of our graduated approach to nurture:

The graduated approach to nurture infographic

The process of embedding the Six Principles of Nurture and developing a nurturing culture will be different for every school. It isn’t about signing up to an off-the-shelf programme, but about looking at a school’s core beliefs, its knowledge of its pupils’ needs, and its commitment to supporting them to achieve their very best.  

“Since adopting a more nurturing approach… our school completely changed our behaviour system, moving away from exclusions and moving towards creating a space where young people build and rebuild relationships with staff across the school. We have numerous pupils who have not been excluded because nurture has changed the way we meet their needs. Now we check-in more, make space for them to voice their needs and make more reasonable adjustments and we find that we are managing them, they are managing themselves and they are staying in mainstream education. The unseen work of the nurturing approach is reaching across the school and our pupils are aware that things have changed.” (Nurturing London VRU school, 2022)

Using the Boxall Profile® to assess all pupils allows staff to identify many more children with SEMH needs, particularly those who were ‘hidden’ or previously overlooked, according to the Now You See Us report (2019). Once identified, staff can put appropriate individual or whole-class strategies in place to ensure all pupils get the support they need to help them become able to learn. 

“We have been able to Boxall Profile® the whole school and implement strategies that are beneficially impacting whole classes. We have looked at these results and… included more nurture activities, which has resulted in the children spending curriculum time more focused and with more intent.” (Nurturing Kent School, 2022)

If you are interested in implementing a whole-school approach to nurture, our National Nurturing Schools Programme helps to equip staff with the tools, training and support needed to develop a nurturing culture that enables pupils to thrive. Schools who complete the programme can also apply for the National Nurturing Schools Award. For more information, please visit our website