Why I’m excited about our new Nurture Project

A Nurture Space in Clogher Road Community College

Sandra Irwin-Gowran

There were no teachers in my family before me and I wasn’t strongly encouraged into the profession by anyone in my family or at school.  I became a teacher because I wanted to have the same positive impact on my students’ lives as a few special teachers had on mine 

Teaching is arguably one of the most relational professions that exist. The relationship between teachers and students can have a major bearing on the level of engagement of a student in the learning process, similarly that relationship can be hugely influential in a child or young person’s sense of belonging and feeling of community while at school. Good teachers value authentic relationships with their students because they know they can be the key to students flourishing. Flourishing occurs when a student feels that they are seen that they belong, and that they’re valued. 

Type “teachers that made a difference in your life” in a search engine and 2.5 billion results will be shown in less than a second! That’s how important teachers are! 

But don’t take my word for it, there is growing evidence that social and emotional skills, engagement and belonging are as important as cognitive skills in improving education and life outcomes for young people My motivation to become a teacher was driven more by a passion for balancing the social, psychological and emotional skillsets with the cognitive. It’s for this reason that I’m very excited about the Nurture Schools project that Educate Together is embarking upon. 

The concept behind the Nurture approach is that focused attention is given to the development of social, emotional and behavioural skills and healthy respectful relationships. Gaps in a child/young person’s development due to issues around attachment with significant others and/or trauma are addressed.  

It is this concept that lies behind the Nurture Approach to education, which has been used to guide the development of Nurture Groups in many schools. Nurture groups are in-school, teacher-led psychosocial interventions focused on supporting the social, emotional and behavioural difficulties (SEBD) of children and young people. They are founded on evidence-based practices and offer a short-term, inclusive, targeted intervention that works in the long term. They work by addressing the social, emotional and learning needs of individual pupils by providing the necessary help to remove the barriers to learning. There is great emphasis on emotional literacy, language development and communication. Pupils are immersed in an accepting and warm environment that helps pupils develop positive relationships with both teachers and peers. 

While the current Covid-19 restrictions create a significant challenge to the development of such groups, the new Educate Together Nurture Schools project aims to build capacity of teachers and other staff members to increase their knowledge, confidence and skills to better address the needs of students who are experiencing or at risk of educational disadvantage.  

It is for this reason that Educate Together is delighted to embark on this new and exciting project. We’ll be writing to principals inviting them to apply to be part of the project before mid-term. You can find further information on the project here.

Sandra Irwin-Gowran