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Educational psychology

4. Nurture groups

The National Nurture Group Network states that “being able to build trusting relationships with reliable and consistent adults and with their peer group establishes a foundation for healthy emotional development, enhancing children’s self-confidence and their ability to take responsibility for their own behaviour which increases chances of educational success.”

Buckinghamshire Educational Psychology Service have been running and supporting nurture groups in primary schools since April 2007. We promote short term interventions of a minimum of two sessions, with a session either being a morning or afternoon. The children remain members of the mainstream class and spend between 2 to 4 terms in the group setting before returning full time to the mainstream class. For some children further assessment may indicate a need for more long-term or alternative support and this would be explored.

We currently work directly with 43 primary schools and 9 secondary schools. Every school running a nurture group will have support from their programme EP with more specialist support available if required. There is an established local nurture network, chaired by the programme EP who promotes and shares best practice and provides continuing professional development opportunities for the Nurture Group practitioners. We retain our links with the National Nurture Group Network and provide on-going news and developments at these sessions.

In Buckinghamshire we follow the six principles of Nurture Groups.  They are:

  1. The pupil’s learning is understood and responded to developmentally.
  2. Nurture room offers a safe and predictable environment where adults are reliable and set firm boundaries.
  3. Students are valued and responded to as individuals to support their self-esteem.
  4. Language is a vital means of communication.
  5. All behaviour is communication.
  6. Transitions are important.

We believe that Nurture Groups provide:

  • Positive adult role models
  • Clear boundaries
  • Structures, predictable environment – feeling of control
  • Structured opportunities to participate in social interactions
  • Opportunities to participate in well-differentiated curricular activities with adults support – experience success
  • Feel valued and respected
  • Feeling of belonging to the school

 The role of the programme team

  • Supporting Nurture programme EPs in nurture work in school.
  • Developing and delivering the training programme for school staff.
  • Coordinating and delivering termly network meetings for school staff.
  • Developing guidelines and materials for website and dissemination.
  • Evaluating and reporting back the effectiveness of the Nurture Groups.

The role of the nurture programme EP

  • Support schools with the selection of children.
  • Regular group supervision for Nurture Group practitioners, including how schools are monitoring the progress of children, systemic issues, delivering the principles etc.
  • Supporting schools with their annual MOT.
  • Support schools with the collection of evaluation data.
  • Can provide link to the programme team.

Nurture network days

We offer termly nurture network days for schools and their nurture practitioners who are already part of the Nurture Group programme. Our nurture network days have separate sessions geared towards Primary and Secondary practitioners with opportunities for formal and informal networking and training input. The 2017/18 nurture network days are:

  • Tuesday 31 October 2017
  • Wednesday 7 March 2018
  • Thursday 14 June 2018

All at Green Park Conference Centre, Stablebridge Road, Aston Clinton from 9.15am to 3pm.

Primary Nurture Group training

Primary Schools who have signed up to the Nurture Group program are invited to attend one of the next Nurture Group training programmes. Please note that places are limited, so we do advise booking early. This training is for:

  • New Nurture Groups, which have priority and should send two members of staff to train as Nurture Group practitioners and the senior management member of staff designated with overall responsibility for nurture in the school
  • New Nurture Group practitioners in established Nurture Groups
  • Current Nurture Group practitioners in established Nurture Groups, who wish to refresh and also add the benefit of their experience and skills.

For further information regarding training please contact Educational Psychology Assistants on 01494 732187, or email

Secondary Nurture Group training

Secondary schools are welcome to apply for Nurture Group training and support.

For further information regarding training please contact Educational Psychology Assistants on 01494 732187 or email

Nurturing schools

Support is available for schools to use a whole school nurturing approach, for more information please email  

Additionally, Buckinghamshire EPS is one of only two centres in the UK which the Nurture Group Network have selected as a partner for the pilot of a national Nurturing Schools programme and launch of The Nurturing School Quality Mark Award (NSMQA). This is an exciting new collaboration with the Nurture Group Network which is providing the opportunity for a limited number of Buckinghamshire schools to access training and support to work towards the Nurturing School Quality Mark Award (NSQMA). Applications for this have now closed.

Resources available for schools to borrow

The Bucks Nurture Group Team has a stock of resources to loan to schools. Nurture Schools can borrow items on a half-termly basis for use in their own Nurture Group sessions free of charge. All we require is a contact name, mobile phone number and for the items to be delivered by hand, as mutually convenient. Please see the catalogue below for all the items available for loan. If you are interested in borrowing any of the items, please contact us.

Nurture Resource Catalogue

Evaluation tools

Below is a list of all the documents you will need for screening & selecting children for a Nurture Group and for evaluation. These are given to schools as part of their nurture training. If you would like copies of any of the following please contact us.

Primary schools

 Secondary schools

The results from all schools are collated on an annual basis so that the EPS can monitor the effectiveness of Nurture Groups. Please see the attached Evaluation Reports.

The concept of Nurture Groups began in Hackney in 1970, providing a secure predictable environment with carefully structured routines for small groups of children. These children are likely to have difficulty accessing learning in their mainstream class and could benefit from a more individualised approach. A nurture group provides a balance of opportunities for meaningful group interaction and the development of trust and appropriate social skills. It has an emphasis on the social, emotional aspects of learning (SEAL) and is clearly linked to the National Curriculum at the appropriate developmental age of the child.

Applications for nurture group training and support

We are now entering our ninth year of delivery and currently have 43 primary schools and 9 secondary schools running nurture groups in the county. In addition, some schools have been supported through ‘whole school’ nurture training, a number of whom are also completing the Nurturing Schools Quality Mark Award, some schools have received nurture support for individual children where a nurture group was not possible and recently, a number of early years practitioners have taken part in training to develop their practice by using nurturing principles in a whole setting approach.

Nurture Groups provide a secure predictable environment with carefully structured routines for small groups of children or young people who present with or who are at risk of developing social, emotional and behavioural difficulties. These children or young people are likely to have difficulty accessing learning in their mainstream class and may have missed early learning opportunities in their younger years for a number of reasons. These children and young people may benefit from a more individualised approach in order to help them to develop more positive relationships in school, to be better able to regulate their own behaviour and emotions and to participate in the curriculum. Nurture groups have an emphasis on social and emotional aspects of learning but, particularly in primary schools, activities should also be clearly linked to the National Curriculum, delivered at the appropriate developmental level for the child. Research has shown that nurture groups work best where there is a whole school approach and where all staff are involved in supporting the work of the nurture group.

The Educational Psychology Service Nurture Team supports schools in the set up and delivery of a part-time Nurture Group through providing a two day initial training for nurture practitioners and senior managers responsible for nurture in the school as well as through a whole school twilight training session. Ongoing support is offered through termly network/training days which are provided at no charge for Buckinghamshire nurture group practitioners and supporting staff; a yearly opportunity to review and develop practice is also offered to nurture group practitioners, using a self-evaluation framework.  We aim to work flexibly to support schools in developing their nurture practice whilst following best practice guidance and support the evaluation of nurture group interventions across the county.

In order to be invited to take part in the initial training sessions, schools should be able to demonstrate a commitment to establishing a nurture group in their school. 


Emotional Literacy Support Assistant (ELSA) training – spring term 2019

Buckinghamshire Educational Psychology Service have been supporting local schools to deliver nurture groups since 2007. The ELSA project will help schools who want to deliver social and emotional interventions in school but who do not have space for a nurture group or who have some children/young people who might benefit from an individual or short-term group programme instead.

Emotional Literacy Support Assistants (ELSAs) are members of school staff who receive training and support from educational psychologists to enable them to plan and deliver individual and small group support programmes in schools.

ELSAs help children and young people to recognise, understand and manage emotions to increase their success and participation in schools.


For further information please contact us by email:

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Last updated: 18 December 2018

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