It may be assumed that when a child starts school their early learning experiences and development are secure and they have the resilience and confidence to engage successfully with both their teachers and peers, so that they can actively take part in all future learning opportunities.
The reality for some children is that nurturing care was impaired, or even absent, at some stage of their earliest development. This can be for a variety of reasons such as postnatal depression, bereavement, and drug or alcohol abuse. These children may need quite a lot of support to cope with the change from the nursery to school environment.
Teachers will recognise these children as those who cannot share or co-operate. They grab from others, play in isolation, can sometimes be aggressive or have inappropriate attachment, and there are others who may be introverted. Their parents may be difficult to reach, many living under extreme stress.
For many parents contact with schools may be a daunting experience. However, schools have the potential to make a huge difference to the lives of many children and their families, through early intervention, in the form of nurture classes.
Glasgow City Council has invested in 68 nurture classes within primary schools across the city. These classes are run by accredited Nurture Teachers and Assistants. The ratio is normally six to eight children to a teacher and assistant. Wellshot Primary, situated in the East End of Glasgow, has had a nurture class called the Rainbow Room for almost eight years. It looks slightly different from the other classes as it has a fitted kitchen, a breakfast table, a cosy corner, and many opportunities for playing together. The staff aim to recreate the process of earliest learning in an environment which is both home and school.
Each day is carefully planned where the routine is predictable and the experiences within this routine are appropriate for an early developmental level. Our children will often display baby and toddler behaviour within this safe and familiar environment. Staff carefully profile children’s learning needs, allowing them to plan interventions and monitor progress for each child on an individual basis.
Working in collaboration with our parents is vital.
The nurture staff and our home support worker have successfully engaged a group of otherwise reluctant parents in a cooking group and are now working with them in collaboration with Culture and Sport to improve their numeracy and literacy skills.
Developing emotional literacy
Our nurture class is the nucleus of our nurturing school. Emotional literacy is taught across all stages, equipping the children with strategies to build resilience for the future. Programmes such as Bounce Back, Seasons for Growth and Circle of Friends all support this process. The children are encouraged to explore and express their feelings through the Class Feelings Trees and worry boxes.
This session we have developed a nurture approach for children in the upper primary through an outdoor skills programme called Forest School. Our ‘Wellshot Woodland Workers’ are a group of challenging children inspired by a trained member of staff and our home support worker.
Our second Marjorie Boxall Quality Mark Award for Nurture is a testament to the dedication and commitment of our nurturing staff and confirms the quality of our nurturing school.
The DVD ‘The Nurture Room – Where Miracles Can Happen’ provides more information on the nurture classes in Glasgow City Council. In our experience, nurture classes can change the lives of children and their families.