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Nurturing a caring ethos

urture groups benefit not only the children attending them but also the ethos and environment of the whole school, according to psychologist, John Bowlby.

Bowlby's attachment theory suggests that young children's attention-seeking demands should be appropriately met if they are to move on to the next developmental stage.

Nurture groups are designed to give children with emotional and behavioural difficulties the attention they need in a family environment, allowing them to progress developmentally.

Since the Seventies, growing numbers of schools have been running nurture groups as separate classes. These usually accommodate about a dozen four and five-year-olds, and are taught by a teacher and a specially trained learning support assistant.

In a survey of nurture groups, teachers felt strongy that having a group attached to the mainstream school - where children also attended some classes and were gradually introduced into the mainstream - made an enormous impact on the school as a whole.

The teachers believed the groups influenced the school's ethos by communicating their focus on children's emotional and social experience in learning. Schools became sensitive to the needs of all pupils and were responsive to the possibility of change - adopting strategies used in the groups to help children who were having difficulties. Other children also appeared more accepting of those with problems.

Early Intervention in Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties: the Role of Nurture Groups, by Paul Cooper and Jane Lovey, School of Education, University of Cambridge. E-mail:

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