In recent weeks, the first cohort of schools participating in Educate Together’s Nurture Project attended celebration events to present and reflect on their school community’s nurture journeys to date.
Educate Together’s Nurture Project began two years ago, at the height of the pandemic, and now involves 26 schools (twenty primary and six second-level schools). The Nurture project works with students with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties in schools to get them back on track and engaged in their education. This is achieved through innovative and inclusive interventions that are teacher and evidence based, complemented by a whole-school approach.
Due to covid-related restrictions, nurture training has taken place online to date. Recent celebration events were the first time participating schools had the opportunity to meet in person, share their experiences, challenges and triumphs of embedding the Nurture approach in their schools.
The 26 schools were presented with a Certificate of Participation in the Whole School Nurture Programme by Dr. Susan Gibney, Director of Nurturing Schools Ireland, who has worked closely with Educate Together and the schools on this project. Participating schools will continue to meet over the coming year with the support of the national office to complete the programme fully.
Educate Together would like to acknowledge the support of both Rethink Ireland and Salesforce for their contributions to making this project possible.
The concept of nurture in education recognises that students’ wellbeing is as important as their academic achievements. Schools applying a nurture approach address the social, emotional and learning needs of individual students by providing help to remove barriers to learning. There is a strong emphasis on emotional literacy, language development, relationships and communication. Teachers use assessment tools to identify students who might benefit from attending a Nurture group in the school for short periods of time each week. For many students the approach transforms their experience of school and helps them to engage better and read their full potential.
There are currently 35 schools (27 primary and eight second-level schools) participating in the Educate Together Nurture Project. Each participating school is at a different stage. Some schools, for example, don’t have space (given their developing and temporary accommodation status) for a Nurture room. Many are finding ways of being creative with what they have. Ideas are shared during online meetings of the communities of practice.
What do students, parents and teachers say about Nurture?
“Nurture gives students skills to function inside and outside the school and that will last them a lifetime” – second-level nurture teacher
“It’s a lifesaver. It’s so nice to relieve the stress from me and just talk about things and at the same time you are learning, just in a different way” – student
“Everyone comes here ‘cos they have a goal and when they reach that it’s noticeable. I might come in ‘cos I don’t know how to share, or get annoyed in class” – student
“Two of my children have been in Nurture groups. My eldest has suffered with anxiety since Junior Infants and always found school very tough. He found 6th class last year his most difficult. He felt he did not fit in with any of the friendship groups in the class and really struggled with feeling isolated. It got to the point we were considering home schooling him. Nurture group gave him a sense of belonging and calm to his day. He always looked forward to it and I was so relieved to know he was part of it.
My second son had a very troubled two years in 2nd and 3rd. He spoke a lot about self-harm and wanting to end his life. If things went wrong in his day, he would try to get out of the building anyway possible by the window or the door. Since starting Nurture, we have had no incidents of trying to escape. He really looks forward to the Nurture part of his day. He adores [Nurture lead] and he knows it’s a safe space. If it was not for Nurture, I believe he would have moved to a different school environment as it was not working for him. Again, I am so grateful for the work [Nurture lead] has done.” – parent