Written evidence submitted by nurtureuk



nurtureuk is pleased to have the opportunity to address this important inquiry, and to feed into how schools and families can be better supported to improve attendance, as well as on the impact of the draft attendance regulations.


nurtureuk is the national charity dedicated to using nurturing approaches to improve the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people. We exist to improve their life chances by promoting nurture across the whole education system, and have worked with over 4,000 schools in the UK in the past year. We take a holistic approach to removing barriers to learning and supporting children to overcome mental health, emotional and behavioural difficulties by promoting nurture in education.


How schools and families can be better supported to improve attendance

        nurtureuk is clear that nurture approaches in education support an environment that encourages attendance. Nurture removes behavioural barriers to engagement in schools by recreating missing or distorted early attachments, and supports greater academic attainment, improved behaviour and attendance, and reduced school exclusions. Children’s social, emotional and mental health needs can be assessed using the Boxall Profile® to ensure appropriate support can be planned for children – this can include nurture groups as an intensive psychosocial intervention, or as part of a whole-school nurturing approach and nurturing school culture.


        Nurture provides the structure and care experiences that may have been missing from a child’s early life. It helps children develop vital social skills, confidence and self-esteem, and encourages them to take pride in achieving – addressing the social and emotional needs that can hamper learning.


        nurtureuk calls for an inclusive education system that prioritises wellbeing, and supportive, safe and calm school environments where children and young people want to be and are ready to learn. A nurturing approach to education gives pupils the right support at the right time, and the development of this school culture has been shown to improve attendance in tandem with pupils’ social, emotional and mental wellbeing.





        By making schools a nurturing environment where all children can thrive, attendance improves, and poor behaviour and disruption decreases. It is essential to support school communities who are working hard to tackle persistent absence, and to foster a welcoming and positive culture across their schools. By assessing every child’s needs through the Boxall Profile®, teachers can address emotional needs and development alongside academic learning, promoting positive attitudes to school and learning.


        In Glasgow, four nurture groups were opened in 2001, and provision then expanded rapidly. Between 2006 and 2017, there was a 71% reduction in exclusion, and “many other improvements, such as the staying on at school rate, higher attendance, teacher absence, attainment overall, and specifically for looked after young people.”[1]  Indeed, a 2017 Glasgow Psychology Services report found that “Nurture has been a substantial part of a success story in education in the city which can point to a clear reduction in pupil exclusions, an increase in attendance and a dramatic improvement in Glasgow establishments’ capacity to hold on to the most vulnerable young people.”  Further, a case study of the introduction of nurture approaches across three schools in Hampshire reported an “improved attendance rate where this was a concern.”[2]


        Northern Ireland’s Department of Education has facilitated the use of nurture groups across the country: as of 2022, Northern Ireland’s Nurture advisory and support service stated that “the Department of Education currently funds 62 Nurture Groups in primary schools.”[3] A report on these groups by Queen’s University Belfast’s Centre for Science and Innovation has found that teachers “felt that they could see clear improvements in the children in relation to punctuality, increased attendance and significant reductions in social, emotional and behavioural difficulties.” [4]


The role of the Holiday Activities and Food programme and other after school and holiday clubs, such as sports, in improving attendance and engagement with school.


        Breakfast, holiday and other wraparound clubs are another opportunity to improve children’s relationships with school. By building in nurturing approaches, schools can ensure that the additional time in school is best used to support children with social, emotional and mental health needs, facilitating a holistic approach to education which extends beyond the curriculum.


The impact of the Department’s proposed reforms to improve attendance

        nurtureuk is broadly in favour of the Department for Education’s proposed reforms to improve attendance, particularly the addition of grounds for deletion from the attendance register: pupils certified by the school medical officer, pupils with an education, health and care plan and pupils with a child in need (CiNP) or child protection plan (CPP). Enforcement is not appropriate in these circumstances.


        However, we are concerned that these reforms will have limited impact in addressing persistent absence. Improved monitoring at local authority level may lead to some benefits from a more consistent approach. Moreover, a more proportional approach to the use of enforcement measures and punitive approaches may lead to better targeting of appropriate support. However, to deliver any meaningful  change, reforms need to be focused instead on meeting the social, emotional and mental health needs of all pupils. Helping schools to better support vulnerable pupils has to be the priority.



nurtureuk is grateful for the opportunity to feed into this important inquiry, and we urge the Committee to consider how nurturing approaches for all pupils, including those with social emotional and mental health needs, can support schools and families to improve attendance.


nurtureuk would be very happy to discuss our submission or give further evidence, should this be of interest to the Committee. If any Committee members would be interested in visiting a school with nurture provision in place, nurtureuk would be pleased to facilitate a visit at a time convenient to you.


February 2023



[1] Kearney, M., March, S., A psychological service contribution to nurture: Glasgow’s nurturing city (2017).

[2] Sanders, T., Helping Children Thrive at School: The Effectiveness of Nurture Groups. Educational Psychology in Practice, Volume. 23, Issue 1, 45-61 (2007).

[3] Education Authority, ‘Nurture Advisory & Support Service (Nass)’ (27/06/22)

[4] Sloan, S., Winter, K., Lynn, F., Gildea, A. & Connolly, P. (2016), ‘The impact and cost effectiveness of Nurture Groups in Primary Schools in Northern Ireland. Belfast: Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation,’ Queen’s University Belfast.