Exploring the process of change: Developing the use of nurturing approaches in a secondary school for young people with social, emotional and mental health needs

By Kathryn Rees

Abstract/Book Review

Nurture Groups (NGs), an intervention designed for use with primary aged children with ‘Social, Emotional and Mental Health Difficulties’ (SEMHD), has been adapted for use in secondary schools and schools for children with special educational needs. Existing research suggests that the NG approach can be an effective intervention with secondary aged pupils however very little research has studied the use of the approach in specialist settings. This research explored the use of nurturing approaches and the establishment of a nurture unit in a specialist secondary school for young people with SEMHD. The explorative study used grounded theory approach to data collection and analysis, aiming to explore the process of change which was occurring within the school and the impact of this change on the young people, staff group and the wider school context. Findings suggest that the establishment of a year seven Nurture Group alongside whole school nurturing approaches was having a positive impact. It seemed that the young people within the group were building trusting relationships with their teachers and feeling safe within the smaller setting. The whole school was thought to have a calmer atmosphere, attributed largely to the use of “wondering aloud” interactional techniques. Nonetheless, the approachhad not impacted all pupils equally, needing to be balanced with other approaches and adapted to meet individual needs as well as the adolescent population . The implementation of the NG approaches was facilitated by a number of factors including a motivated management team, shared ownership of the project, availability of resources, support from outside professionals, whole school training and an on-going process of reflection and adaptation. Furthermore, there was a need for sufficient time for teachers to prepare, plan and reflect. Limitations to this study and implications for practice are discussed.