‘Inclusion is a sense of belonging: feeling respected, valued for who you are; feeling a level of supportive energy and commitment from others so that you can do your best work’.(Miller and Katz 2002)
Wheatfields Infants’ and Nursery School is committed to providing an inclusive learning environment for all learners.
The Tree House (Nurture group)is designed to remove barriers to learning and enable all children to achieve by providing opportunities for social learning in a safe nurturing environment.
This information in conjunction with The Boxall Profile handbook and Beyond the Boxall Profile explain the principles and practice of this specialist resource.
Nurture Group? What’s that?
Nurture Groups were first set up in London in the late 1970s by pre-eminent educational psychologist, Marjorie Boxall.
Many children, she observed, needed to catch up, both socially and emotionally, before they could progress to the ‘business of learning’. She argued that unless they were given a safe base in school where they could develop core social, emotional and thinking skills, they would find themselves unable to access and experience the sense of community and the academic achievements that ordinarily come with school life.
Nurture Groups initially began to flourish, underpinned by notable practical results and a growing research base, but changes in educational policy resulted in their closure. Running parallel to this was the development of a targets and league-table culture, which again saw groups closed as being immeasurable and unaccountable. By 1998, there were only 50 nurture groups in the whole of the UK.
However, over the past decade educational priorities have changed, led primarily by school leaders and teachers working at ground level, who have recognised the need to respond to a rising number of young children with emotional-social problems and pressure to reduce exclusion statistics.
"For a time, there was something of a conflict between the achievement culture and the nurturing culture, but nurture groups have grown fast over the past five years," says Jim Rose, director of the Nurture Group Network. "There are at least 1,000 groups, and probably more, in primary schools – mostly five- to seven-year-olds in Key Stage One, although they are spread right across the primary range – and there are now also about 100 in secondary schools."
Nurture Groups continue to be supported in their results measured in numerous ‘real life’ case studies and the work of academics looking at Attachment Theory. In 2011, Ofsted evaluated the impact of Nurture Groups and reported positively on their role in addressing issues of behaviour and engagement.
The Six Principles of The Tree House
1. Children's learning is understood developmentally.
The staff respond to children not in terms of arbitrary expectations about ‘attainment levels' but in terms of the children's developmental progress assessed through the Boxall Profile Handbook. The response to the individual child is ‘as they are', underpinned by a non-judgemental and accepting attitude
2. The Tree House Offers a Safe Base
The organisation of the environment and the way the group is managed reduces anxiety. The nurture group room offers a balance of educational and home life experiences aimed at supporting the development of the children's relationship with each other and with the staff. The nurture group is organised around a structured session with predictable routines. Great attention is paid to detail; the adults are reliable and consistent in their approach to the children. They provide a secure, safe environment enabling the development of trusting relationships. Nurture groups are an educational provision making the important link between emotional containment and cognitive learning.
3. The Tree House is important for the development of self-esteem.
Nurture involves listening and responding. In a nurture group ‘everything is verbalised' with an emphasis on the adults engaging with the children in reciprocal shared activities e.g. play / meals / reading /talking about events and feelings. Children respond to being valued and thought about as individuals, so in practice this involves noticing and praising small achievements; ‘nothing is hurried in nurture groups‘.
4. Language is understood as a vital means of communication.
Language is more than a skill to be learnt, it is the way of putting feelings into words. Children often ‘act out' or withhold their feelings as they lack the vocabulary to ‘name' how they feel. In nurture groups the informal opportunities for talking and sharing, e.g. welcoming the children into the group or having snack together are as important as the more formal lessons teaching language skills. Words are used instead of actions to express feelings and opportunities are created for extended conversations or encouraging imaginative play to understand the feelings of others. The use of small group work allows children to share their emotions.
5. All behaviour is communication.
Understanding what a child is communicating through behaviour helps staff to respond in a firm but non-punitive way. If the child can sense that their feelings are understood this can help to diffuse difficult situations. The adult makes the link between the external / internal worlds of the child. The Treehouse has the same expectations of behaviour as the rest of the school and follow the whole school behaviour policy but may develop individual behaviour plans to enable a child to attain those expectations.
6. Transitions are significant in the lives of children.
The nurture group helps the child make the difficult transition from home to school. However, on a daily basis there are numerous transitions the child makes, e.g. between sessions and classes and between different adults. Changes in routine are invariably difficult for many children and need to be carefully managed with preparation and support.
Each child has a key worker and has individual targets that are developed in consultation with the child, parent, class teacher, Tree House team and Assistant Head for Inclusion.
Referral and Assessment
Children can self-refer, or be referred by parents/carers and staff. The team, along with the Assistant heads for Inclusion will consider the referral according to the entry criteria. Where the referral has come from a child or the staff team the Tree House team (or Assistant Head for Inclusion) will meet with parents/carers to gather their views and discuss how the intervention may benefit their child.
Parents and carers are regularly invited to attend open sessions where they can see how the Tree House works. The team also operate an open door at the end of each session for parents/carers.
All children have an identified keyworker and individual targets. Class teachers and parents/carers are consulted in drawing up the targets.
The tree house operates a system of ongoing assessment with reviews each half term at pupil progress meetings and Boxall profiles and the child’s views reviewed termly
Entry and Exit Criteria
The Tree House is a specialist programme providing for a maximum of 10 children per session .It is staffed by 2 members of staff.
Children normally attend 2 sessions (pm) per week.
One or more of the following:
Referral made from Pupil Progress Meetings due to concerns over attainment and emotional-social well being.
Profile shows significant developmental delays.
Difficulties establishing friendships or managing negotiations with peers, significant number of time outs.
Not making progress despite number of targeted interventions
Has a Statement of SEND
Has experienced trauma / bereavement (parents / carers provide details).
One or more of the following:
Boxall Profile - significant progress
Significant confidence/ PSED target met
Attainment Data – targets reached,
Decrease in number of conflict situations
Child request – favourite lessons identified.
Constructive friendships established in classes.
Positive feedback from structured observations.
- Attendance for 2 terms(negotiable)
Example of Timetable
- 1.30pm Circle Time
- 1.45pm Circle Time Super Star into Child Initiated Learning.Two adult led activities-one art/craft and one sensory/therapeutic and two independent activities.
- 2.15 pm Story
- 2.30pm Snack and Smile of the Day
- 3.00pm Session finishes
A major part, if not the major part, of The Tree House is the daily act of ‘breaking bread’. During each session, children and staff sit down at the table to eat together. This event is designed specifically to build relationships and model both emotional-social skills and language & communication skills.
The key objectives of Snack are:
Improved listening skills
Increased confidence and skill in talking
Fostering of class co-operation
Improvements in patience and control
Learning to share and take turns
The event is tightly structured with clear routines and responsibilities. The snack has a clear start and finish time, the food is shared at a set table and children help to set and clear away.