Nurture Base – Oasis

The Oasis @ Cuffley School

The Setting Up and Impact of the Nurture Base


What is ‘Nurture’?

The Oxford English Dictionary Definition:

VerbTo care for and protect (someone or something) while they are growing;

            To help or encourage the development of;

            To cherish (a hope, belief, or ambition);


Noun: The action or process of nurturing someone or something;

Upbringing, education, and environment, contrasted with inborn characteristics as an influence on or determinant of personality.


Nurture is a specialist form of provision for pupils who exhibit barriers to learning and who may present with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties. Nurture groups provide children with support beyond which can be provided in mainstream classrooms.

Nurture Groups were first established in the Inner London Education Authority in 1970 by Marjorie Boxall and were originally created to support children by immersing them in accepting and warm environments that helped them to develop positive relationships with staff and their peers. Placements in nurture groups were designed to be for either short- or medium-term periods, with the average child returning fully to their mainstream classes in between two and four terms.

Since 1990, there has been a resurgence of interest in nurture groups, with a greater understanding of the importance of developing social and emotional skills to support learning and development, the endorsement of nurture groups by the Department for Education in its 1997 Green Paper Excellence for All Children, as well as the publication of the first book on nurture groups in 2000 by Marion Bennathan and Marjorie Boxall. Currently there are over 1500 nurture groups in the UK.

What is a Nurture Group?

Nurture groups are founded on evidence-based practices and offer a short-term, inclusive, focused intervention that works in the long term. Nurture groups are small groups of children in early years, primary or secondary settings supported by the whole staff group and parents. Each group is run by two members of staff. Children attend nurture groups but remain an active part of their main class group, 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 whatever help is needed to remove the barriers to learning. There is great emphasis on language development and communication. Nothing is taken for granted and everything is explained, supported by role modelling, demonstration and the use of gesture as appropriate. The relationship between the two staff, always nurturing and supportive, provides a role model that children observe and begin to copy. Food is shared at ‘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 groups have been working successfully for more than 40 years in the UK and now in other countries including Canada, New Zealand and Romania, and have been praised, supported and recommended by organisations such as Ofsted.

The Six Principles of Nurture:

  1. Children’s learning is understood developmentally
  2. The classroom offers a safe base
  3. The importance of nurture for the development of self-esteem
  4. Language is a vital means of communication
  5. All behaviour is communication
  6. The importance of transition in children’s lives

Ref: Lucas,S., Insley,K. and Buckland,G. (2006) Nurture Group Principles and Curriculum Guidelines Helping Children to Achieve, The Nurture Group Network.

Nurture at Cuffley

At Cuffley we place a high regard on children’s emotional and social wellbeing and we aim to provide a caring environment where children are not only well-supported but truly nurtured.

“Cuffley School is a happy and welcoming place. Pupils enjoy coming to school and get along with one another and their teachers. They feel safe, secure and valued.”

(OFSTED, October 2013)

In order to support our children’s learning and development, we invest in good quality training for our staff. In January 2014, key staff attended training on ‘Social and Emotional Literacy Support’, a seven-week course which covered a broad range of issues affecting primary school children. Inspired by some of the issues raised, more specialist training on “Nurture” was attended in May 2014.

Using this training as a starting point, along with an unwavering and passionate belief in the importance of supporting children’s social and emotional needs to support longer term achievement, we decided to invest in developing specialist provision, beyond the confines of the classroom, at Cuffley, to start in September 2014. A space for our ‘base’ was identified; an Emotional Literacy Support Assistant was recruited the base, soon christened ‘The Oasis’, was opened.

The Oasis was resourced and set up to provide the right kind of space for nurture, but also to provide a space for small, intervention groups, a lunchtime Games Club and a home for learning mentoring (which had already been successfully provided for several years).

The following types of activities are provided in The Oasis:

  • A Lunchtime Games Club (open to all, but some ‘season ticket’ holders who find lunchtimes in the larger outdoor environment challenging)
  • Social Skills Groups
  • Lego Therapy
  • Spelling Groups
  • Memory Skills Groups
  • Speech and Language Support
  • Writing Groups
  • Learning Mentoring
  • 1:1 provision (including support for our Pupil Premium Group children)
  • SATs Breakfast Club

Provision in The Oasis is constantly reviewed to meet the needs of the children.

In addition, family and professionals meetings often take place in The Oasis, including our SEN Support Group Coffee Mornings.

The Nurture Group in Practice

In the first half of the Spring Term, the Nurture Group was run every morning, from Monday to Thursdays, with a focus on literacy and maths, as well as promoting the principles of Nurture. It was staffed by the ELSA, an additional member of staff and was closely overseen and supported by the SENCO/Deputy Headteacher and the Headteacher.

The four children were dropped off early at The Oasis and either undertook small, independent tasks, to support the development of their fine motor and attention skills or they read with a designated person, either a teacher or a Year 6 reading buddy. After this settling in period, the children had lessons in literacy and mathematics, planned by their teachers matching those undertaken by their peers in class. The activities were then personalised according to need.   Built into every session was ‘snack time’, which usually included a small drink and a piece of toast and/or fruit. Social skills were very important during this session. The children shared playtimes and lunchtimes with their friends and were reintegrated into their classes in the afternoons. On Fridays, the children remained in class all day.

Parent partnership was an essential component of the nurture group and progress was shared throughout. Parents had contact at the daily drop-off, brief written reports and meetings with the Head and Deputy. They were also been able to email The Oasis and phone at any time.

Nurture is an intervention and reintegration into class full-time is a key element. The children were assessed on an individual basis and after discussion with all key staff, class teachers and parents, they were reintegrated on a personalised basis. The aim was to fully reintegrate all the children within their home classes by the end of the Spring Term. This happened, but there was ongoing support by the ELSA back in class.

We have since received funding from our local DSPL (delivering specialist provision locally) group, following two successful bids and are about to bid for a 3rd time. June 2015.

The Impact of the Nuture Group

All of the parents of the children in the Nurture Group have been incredibly supportive and overwhelmingly positive about the impact of the provision on their children’s attitude towards learning, behaviour and progress (despite one or two early misgivings about the provision).

The staff in The Oasis, the class teachers and the SENCO/Deputy and Headteacher all agree that the impact of the Nurture provision has been clear and very positive.

Amongst other things the following general impact has been identified:

  • A rise in the children’ confidence
  • An improvement in the children’ attitude towards learning – a ‘can-do’ attitude
  • Improved independence
  • Improved vocabulary and communication
  • Improved Social Skills, including better turn-taking, support of each other and manners
  • Improved memory skills
  • Improved attitude and participation in class
  • An improvement in the children’ sharing their learning at home
  • Improvements in reading ability and clear progress made
  • An improvement in Phonics knowledge
  • Improved letter and number formation
  • Improved handwriting
  • Improved number recognition
  • Improved number addition facts to 20

Nurture Group 2 June 2015

After half term a second Nurture Group was started. This time it is five children from the Early Years. It takes place on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 1:30-3:00pm in the Oasis. It begins with a PSHE focus delivered by a short clip on the whiteboard and/or a story in a book. The following activity is about listening to instructions e.g. lining up in a certain order, repeating back instructions of a new game and so on. The game is usually an outdoor game incorporating High Frequency Words (HFW) or spellings, focusing on turn taking. The activity is moved back inside for a table top game. There is then discussion around what went well and how they are feeling (use of personal reward cards). The aim is to have an opportunity to build a big model (rocket), as a team and share it in their year group assembly.

Where Next?

There are a number of possibilities for next steps:

  • Managed support in class following the completion of a group and before the start of a Nurture Group to ensure good transition to the mainstream classroom setting.
  • October 15-Possible three afternoons of Nurture for groups in different year groups.
  • An assembly on Nurture to promote this to all children within the school (Summer/Autumn term’15), with an opportunity for children from years 2-6 to self-refer to a surgery for a 15 minute chat.
  • Staff and Governor updates/training

The Wider Impact – Beyond Cuffley

We have received recognition from the Hertfordshire Educational Psychology Service with recommendations from them to other schools. Several schools have sent staff to visit and see our practice. We have hosted Nurture Group network meetings. We are happy to offer support and advice to other schools where we are able. Our Deputy Headteacher was asked to speak at the local SENCO cluster meeting about our journey so far and our Headteacher at the local Headteacher’s Association and DSPL board meeting.


An extensive meta-review of nurture group research conducted in 2014 by the Nurture Group Network highlighted the successful outcomes of nurture groups in primary schools, including:

  • Children who attended a Nurture Group had a significant chance of improving their learning skills, including language and literacy skills;
  • Groups resulted in long-term improvements in pupils’ behaviour and social skills;
  • Nurture Groups resulted in a positive change to Social and Emotional behaviour in the classroom and an improved behavioural ethos at school;
  • The younger the pupil was when s/he accessed the nurture group, the more significant the gains in social functioning and academic performance;
  • Nurture Groups result in a positive attachment to school;
  • The best results have been achieved when the nurture group has been in existence for at least two years.

Ofsted’s 2011 report on Nurture Groups confirmed most of these findings, concluding that Nurture Groups significantly modified pupils’ behaviour, improved Social Emotional Behavioural Difficulties, gave parents support, accelerated academic progress, enabled pupils to reintegrate with their mainstream class, modified the practice of mainstream staff, influenced the rest of the school practice and improved pupils’ attendance.