Nurture group for S1 pupils

One of Glasgow's secondary schools is to adapt the city's nurture class initiative for early primary pupils to meet the needs of 12 of its S1 pupils this year.

Liz Ervine, headteacher of Springburn Academy, is to pioneer the nurture group approach, made famous by educationists Marjorie Boxall and Marion Bennathan in the 1960s and 1970s, for some of her new entrants.

The group are seen as potential NEET pupils - thought to be unlikely to enter employment, education or training after they leave school - unless there is successful intervention at secondary level. The class will be described officially as an "enhanced support group" for S1 pupils.

Unofficially, Ms Ervine calls it "a nurture group for secondary".

The term "nurture group", or "nurture class", is usually applied to P1 and P2 children who need more structured support to help them develop the skills and attitudes needed to function and learn in primary.

They are usually identified using the "Boxall" profile developed by Marjorie Boxall, and then withdrawn for part of the school day to a small class of 10 to 12 with a specially trained teacher and assistant. They maintain contact with their core class and are usually reintegrated completely within two to five terms.

A successful pilot of nurture classes in 17 of Glasgow's primaries has led to it being extended to 58 classes in all.

Springburn Academy was in the second tranche of the Scottish Executive's programme of Schools of Ambition and has received additional funding of Pounds 35,000 from Lord Laidlaw's youth project to support its work on mentoring and citizenship.

The pupils in the nurture group will be identified by the depute headteacher in charge of primary and secondary liaison, the principal teacher in charge of support for learning and the headteachers of associate primaries.

Ms Ervine describes the group as "pupils working at level A or B, who may have emotional problems, social work or psychological involvement, or other difficulties identified by the headteacher".

She describes them as the kind of youngster who has difficulty with the curriculum in first year of secondary, becomes "ill" and is struggling by Christmas. "The pattern is repeated in S2, after which they never really come back," she said.

"We are trying to set up a programme which we think will be interesting and exciting for them. We will do literacy and numeracy work in a classroom which will be a bit like a primary nurture group - they will be in the same place for maths and language."

A key element will be involvement with local businesses which will give pupils access to enterprise activities and business staff the opportunity to develop mentoring skills.

"We are playing catch-up with these young people because they have not had the opportunity to go to a nurture group when they started primary school,"

Ms Ervine commented.

Once nurture groups have become established in the city's primaries, she hopes that secondary schools will not need to set them up.

As in the primary nurture classes, the Springburn group will concentrate on social and emotional development. Circle time-type opportunities, which allow pupils to discuss feelings, may be held during break because that is when they may encounter problems socialising with their peers.

Ms Ervine also hopes to build up the pupils' experience and confidence in home economics and living skills. Parents will be invited in every Friday afternoon to view their children's work.

Leader 18

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