The impact of nurture group training

31 July 2023

We know that a nurturing approach can have an incredible effect on the lives of children and young people, and we love to hear about the real-life impact it has in the schools we work with. The following case study was from a school on our Nurturing London Violence Reduction Unit Programme which finished in 2022. The storyteller is a Senior Leader at a large community primary school in North-West London. 


At the start of the programme, our challenge was to see how we could include nurture practice to complement our existing practice. The Nurturing London Programme offered us the opportunity to look at our whole-school practice. We saw it as a perfect fit which allowed capacity for a nurturing approach to grow right across our school through the training and upskilling of our nurture group staff, in the first instance, and then for all staff. The programme never felt like an add-on, but rather a way of embedding and galvanising our vision of the practice we valued.

We had a foundational knowledge of attachment theory, but we felt that a consistent nurturing approach in our classroom and curriculum was just not there. Our staff had a mixed understanding of the principles of nurture, so there was a lack of consistency based on different beliefs of how behaviour should be managed. I think this resulted from a combination of misconceptions that viewed nurture as a “soft approach”, and also a lack of specialist knowledge and training in the concepts underpinning it. Staff needed to see what the actual work looked like and to observe for themselves the links with their existing practice. If this didn’t happen, we would be fighting against a tide of “zero tolerance” philosophy.

I would say that this binary view of having to choose between the opposing “soft” approach and “zero tolerance” in addressing behaviour was our biggest obstacle in our whole-school nurturing journey. I believe that this view is prevalent amongst our parents too, and it became more prevalent during the pandemic when we were quite isolated from parents. What we know is that there is always an individual story and context behind all behaviour, but this is sometimes hard to “sell” to parents. What I have seen is that when a teacher has a greater understanding of and experience with a nurturing approach, then it is easier to get the parents on board. We encourage nurture across the board, meaning that nurture infuses all of our relationships and our priorities as a school. We constantly make reference to nurture practice and its underlying principles to our parents.

At the start of the programme, we didn’t fully realise the breadth of what was being offered to us. Our Lead Consultant (LC) was instrumental in supporting us in the implementation of the training, staff capacity, timing and roll-out of everything we had access to. They were able to guide us at each point along the journey as to how we could build on our nurturing capacity by utilising the project offer. We knew right from the beginning that we wanted to build a lasting nurturing practice and the Theory and Practice of Nurture Groups training really helped us to build the capacity for long-term, sustainable practice; the cost of doing that outside of the project would have been prohibitive.

Utilising the Theory and Practice of Nurture Groups training offered as part of the programme to upskill three male members of staff in nurturing practice has been a core element of our success in creating a broader and wider perception of using this approach. The training and using the Boxall Profile® to create a depth of understanding of the roots of behaviour really demonstrated to them that this was not a “mumsy” approach, but something very powerful to create change. We’ve seen these members of staff transform from using a “military approach” to adopting more playful, meaningful and rich connections that have been hugely successful.

We have seen that early nurturing intervention has prevented and reduced instances of fixed term exclusions which are usually centred around one or two individuals with complex backgrounds and needs. Something that really stood out for me was seeing the “PRU to prison pipeline” that was shown to us at one of the monthly networking meetings. It really hit home, because before seeing this, I had always viewed exclusions and its consequences as a secondary school problem. I know that for at least one pupil with a very complex story, that if they had been able to attend a nurture group in Year 1, the outlook would be a different one. There is always more work to be done around exclusions, but we know where we want to be and we are headed in the right direction.


We are delighted to have been commissioned by the London Violence Reduction Unit to deliver a new programme alongside delivery partners Tender. The Inclusive and Nurturing Schools Programme aims to tackle school exclusions across 70 schools in seven London Boroughs. 

If you’d like to find out more about our Nurture Group training, please visit our website.