Nurture Provision in Primary Schools

The Department of Education currently provides funding for 62 Nurture Groups in primary schools in Northern Ireland. In addition, a ‘Nurture in Education Programme’ is available to all primary, special, post-primary schools and Education Otherwise Than At School (EOTAS) settings. This allows those schools without a funded Nurture Group to avail of training and support in nurture approaches. A Nurture Advisory & Support Service (NASS) has been established within the Education Authority to take forward this work.

Nurture Group Provision

Nurture groups are a short-term, focused intervention strategy to support young people (Primary school years 1 – 3) who have attachment related social, behavioural, emotional and wellbeing needs which could otherwise become long-term barriers to learning and attainment.

Each group consists of between 6 to 10 children, normally from Years 1 to 3, led by a nurture group teacher and classroom assistant. Children attending the nurture group remain an active part of their main class, spending appropriate times within the nurture group according to their need, and typically return full time to their own class within two to four terms.

Nurture groups assess learning and social and emotional needs and give help that is needed to remove the barriers to learning. The relationship between the two nurture staff is always nurturing and supportive, providing a role model for children.  Food is shared at ‘breakfast’ or ‘snack time’ with much opportunity for social learning, helping children to attend to the needs of others, with time to listen and be listened to.

As the children learn academically and socially they develop confidence, become responsive to others, learn self-respect and take pride in behaving well and in achieving.

Nurture support is not limited to the nurture group, as all schools will embed the nurturing principles and practice at a whole school level, providing appropriate support for all pupils attending the school.

Evaluation of Nurture Group Provision

Queens University Belfast (QUB) was commissioned by the Department of Education to undertake an evaluation of nurture groups and examine the impact of the 30 groups then funded by the Department. 

The QUB evaluation found clear evidence that nurture groups are having a consistent, significant and large effect in improving social, emotional and behavioural outcomes among children who previously had difficulty learning within a mainstream class. The same effects were not evident among children in similar circumstances attending a school without a nurture group.  The report also found that nurture groups are cost effective with the potential to deliver significant savings to the education system.

An Executive summary of the report can be found below:

Executive Summary

The full report can be accessed below:

Full Evaluation Report

Back to top