NURTURE groups, the 1970s' solution to problem infants, are making a comeback with new research that suggests disruptive children can be transformed within two terms.
The special classes, where up to 12 primary pupils are taught by two adults, were widespread in the capital but many withered away with the abolition of the Inner London Education Authority.
There are now signs of a renaissance, with a study by Cambridge University estimating that about half of all councils are running or plan to run nurture groups.
Professor Paul Cooper, leader of the research team, said the study of 342 children was producing "impressive data".
"Children who cannot relate to other kids or adults, who are withdrawn, aggressive or disrptive, become socially harmonised and can increasingly cope in mainstream classes," he said.
"Teachers' perceptions also indicate academic progress."
Pupils spent different amounts of time in the groups. The national curriculum is still taught but in a more targeted way, accordingto the study funded by theGovernment and the Nuffield Foundation.
A 1997study of nurture groups in Enfield, which continued to run them after they fell out of vogue, found pupils who attended the classes were less likely to develop special needs, or end up in a special school.
While the groups have traditionally been used for infants, secondary school initiatives are being introduced in Staffordshire, Thurrock and Cambridgeshire.