Reward for the force of nurture

20th May 2011 at 01:00
East Ayrshire Council has won a national prize for its nurturing approach to children with additional support needs. Henry Hepburn reports

A "groundbreaking" approach to nurture groups has earned East Ayrshire Council the One to Watch prize in national awards for outstanding public service.

East Ayrshire was picked out in the Cosla Excellence Awards for its nurture strategy and its approach to parenting. Judges from Cosla, the local authority umbrella body, were impressed by the impact of nurture classes that began in 2009.

Staffed by two adults, the classes have a maximum of 10 children who find it difficult to learn in mainstream lessons. For part of the day, they attend nurture classes where the emphasis is on social and emotional development through play, and the rest of the day is spent in their usual class.

Council deputy leader Iain Linton said that nurturing approaches were, in East Ayrshire, "being used on a multi-agency basis, we believe for the first time, to support children in both specialist education and in the early years setting".

The council was influenced by the Solihull Approach, an early-intervention model for care professionals working with children and families affected by emotional and behavioural difficulties.

East Ayrshire's work is "important and ground-breaking", said Graham Short, executive director of educational and social services. "Successes like this do not come easily and are the product of extended periods of hard work."

Several schools in the region have been using nurture approaches. Ruth Miller, an educational psychologist in East Ayrshire, described as "exemplary" the work she is involved in at Cumnock Academy's supported learning centre.

"We believe we are the first special establishment to have fully embedded nurture across the curriculum for children with additional support needs," she said.

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