Nurture groups are turning round the lives of troubled young children in North Lanarkshire.
Evaluation of nine groups, involving mostly P1-3 pupils, showed that this type of early intervention was helping almost everyone back into mainstream classes.
There was also a less expected benefit in that parents who would "not normally engage" were becoming enthused about their children's progress and more involved in their learning.
The success of the nurture groups has persuaded North Lanarkshire Council to make training available in all schools, while trials recently began in two secondary schools to gauge the potential benefits for S1-2 pupils.
The nurture groups were formed in areas of high deprivation, with free school meal entitlement as high as 65 per cent in one school. Children would typically spend two to four terms in smaller groups, where they received help with personal and social skills.
There was a "clear, positive impact", with nearly all children returning to their mainstream class, albeit that extra support was necessary and some children's progress regressed upon reintegration.
The evaluation, based on observation of more than 50 pupils, showed that the initiative provided stability in their lives thanks to a reassuring environment of predictable routines and clear expectations. A stable relationship with an adult helped them relate to peers, respond to basic responsibilities, become more motivated and feel secure enough to talk about their feelings.
Some children were increasingly able to manage their own behaviour and therefore learn more easily. Parents reported that their children were also getting on better at home.
There were "striking" increases in self-esteem and self-confidence, as pupils were given chances to take part in school shows, fundraising and pupil councils. Most children's social skills improved and, thanks largely to speech and language therapy, they were able to spend more time learning socially acceptable behaviour through play with peers.