Nurture in schools: needed now more than ever

Friday 20th March 2020

The COVID-19 outbreak looks set to have an enormous impact, not only on the health service, but on the everyday life of every single person in the UK.

As teachers using nurture approaches across the country know, for many vulnerable children schools are their only place of safety, support and security. This is why we have welcomed news that schools will continue to care for the children of key workers, and children with safeguarding and welfare needs in the response to COVID-19, while recognising what a challenging and uncertain time this will be for teachers and schools across the country. We hope this will provide the right balance between keeping people safe and giving children the support they need.

Nurture approaches already have an enormous impact on pupils across the country and they can empower teaching staff to understand and address the needs of children who have experienced trauma. Clearly, the importance of nurture is only going to increase for the two groups of pupils who will remain in schools.

For the first group, their parents and carers will be going out to do difficult, stressful and potentially dangerous jobs. The children of these vital workers will be acutely aware of the role their parents are playing and the difficult job they’re doing. Because of this it seems likely the number of children with emotional needs will increase. The emotional support nurture approaches offer will therefore be crucial to more and more children.

For the second group, vulnerable children and young people, the coming period of turmoil will lead to greater pressure on their families and further uncertainty in their lives. This will significantly increase the need for a place where these children feel safe and have their social and emotional needs met and understood.

In England, guidance specifically lists those children “with child in need plans, on child protection plans, ‘looked after’ children, young carers, disabled children and those with education, health and care (EHC) plans” as being part of this group. Yet we know there are many children with needs who fall outside these groups who need the support that nurturing schools provide and so we welcomed the government’s pledge to support schools to support “other children facing social difficulties”. In Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales government’s have made similar announcements with some clarifications around which pupils should be given extra support to come.

We hope schools, governments and local authorities will acknowledge the need to offer support to those children who might have no formal classification of need, but who will clearly benefit from their care and support, within the category of “other children facing social difficulties”. The number of children facing difficult circumstances will increase significantly during this period, as always early intervention from schools will prevent social and emotional issues escalating.

When we emerge from this difficult time, there will be lasting impacts, on individuals, on families and on society as a whole. Nurture will have a vital role to play in helping children and young people come to terms with this and in supporting them to flourish, whatever difficulties they and their families have been through.

As a charity, nurtureuk stands ready to support the heroic teachers and other professionals who change the lives of those children most in need. The Boxall Profile Online will continue to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This key tool for understanding individual children’s social and emotional needs and planning how best support to them will be of use to more professionals than ever before. We will have more updates on the support we’re able to offer, including online training and one-to-one support very soon.

Thank you for all you as teachers and other professionals do, your roles are more important now than ever. Stay safe and remember, even in this time of great turmoil, you make a huge difference to the lives of the children in your care.