Nurture groups were established at Heath Farm School in 2006, with the underlying philosophy that children who are exhibiting SEMH behaviour are experiencing emotions and behaviours that are rooted in earlier developmental stages and are inappropriate for their chronological age. Furthermore the lack of developmentally necessary experience means that the social and psychological foundations for learning are not laid down. The main theory underpinning our Nurture Groups is that of Attachment Theory. This refers to the dynamic relationship between children and their caregivers. Inadequate or disrupted relationships have left the young people stuck at an earlier developmental stage.
In general young people taken into the groups do not engage successfully with people and/or events. They tend to fall under one or more of the following broad headings:
- Isolated and withdrawn from others.
- Craving affection, and making indiscriminate and short lived attachments.
- Pre-nursery behavioural features and immature dependent relationships.
- Limited or under-developed play/language/motor development etc.
- Under developed social relationships; can’t share; resists control; interfering and disruptive; poor tolerance for frustration, disappointment or failure; may have temper tantrums.
- Resistive, manipulative and/or explosive behaviour in children who are in other ways underdeveloped and show features of dependency.
- Problems of attention to and concentration on age appropriate activities in general.
At Heath Farm School students in the Nurture Groups are taught in small groups with a high level of staff support. Initially established for younger pupils, the provision has been developed and extended. Currently there are five groups; three for primary age pupils; one for KS3 pupils; and one for pupils in Years 10 and 11. Each has a slightly different approach.
Primary age pupils are taught in a formal Nurture Group style; the aim is to support their reintegration into the main school groups in between two and six terms. Pupils in this group will offer distinct behavioural and educational challenges and much focus is put on education through social interaction, play and experiential learning, using personalised programmes of study. While they make progress in core subjects and enjoy thematically delivered studies, they learn social skills; turn taking; sharing; how to play formally and informally; etc. They enjoy a wide range of visits to support their studies, as well as learning to enjoy listening to stories, art and craft, gardening etc.
In Lower Secondary Support pupils from Year 6-9 are taught using a primary model, with a high level of personalised programming around their specific interests and needs, and use again of social interaction, problem solving and experiential learning to support their progress.
Academically there is particular focus on core subjects; a synthetic phonics programme supports reading and a structured maths scheme offers personalised learning. They have a wide programme of educational visits to enhance their learning experience, enjoy drama and storytelling from Dickens to Dahl, take part in practical activities such as gardening, construction cookery and sports. A key focus remains the development of their self esteem and sense of personal well being.
Last year a Year 10 and 11 group was formed, offering G.C.S.E. and Entry level accreditation to young people who need extra emotional support, and who benefit from the close co-operation between home, therapy and school which characterizes all of the Nurture provision. In addition, pupils attend Work Experience placements and are supported in gaining college placements after leaving school.
Pupils in Secondary Nurture Groups may not move quickly into the main class groups; the teaching styles of the Secondary Support Groups may continue to suit them through their secondary school experience. Other pupils may move to the main classes of the school, or on to Kent special or mainstream provision.