The nature of nurture

20th April 2001 at 01:00
Troubled primary pupils can have their behaviour transformed within two terms by attending nurture groups, a Cambridge University study suggests. As a result, they are less likely to develop special needs or be referred to special schools than those without access to the groups.

Disruptive, aggressive or withdrawn children have learned to fit into mainstream classes after taking part in these groups, which are based on development and attachment theory models.

Nurture groups are special classes made up of a maximum of 12 children, who are taught by two adults. A safe atmosphere is created in the groups, where a curriculum focusing on the children's social ad behavioural needs is followed alongside the national curriculum. Because the groups are small, children receive more attention from teachers than is practical in mainstream classes.

The Cambridge study shows that nurture groups, which were fashionable in the 1970s, are making a comeback, with about half of all local authorities running or planning to run them. They are also appearing in secondary schools.

The Effectiveness of Nurture Groups: a study of outcomes achieved by nurture group children and young people with social, emotional, behavioural and learning difficulties. Department of Education, University of Leicester; e-mail:

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