Pupil Referral Unit
The Six Principles of Nurture
Much of what we do at Thornes and Woodlands Centres is based upon the six principles of nurture, which were developed by Eva Holmes and Eve Boyd (1999).
It is important that all staff working with our children have a rich understanding of how to support pupils who are living with trauma and those who have sensory challenges linked to their trauma or Autism. All staff understand the challenges pupils with ADHD face in developing concentration and focus, and they use this understanding to inform their practice in the setting. Training is detailed and regularly updated by appropriate professionals in order to ensure that all adults are able to provide the highest levels of care and attention.
What is ‘nurture’?
Nurture groups are founded on evidence-based practices and offer a short-term, inclusive, focused intervention that works in the long term. Nurture groups are classes of between six and 12 children or young people in early years, primary or secondary settings supported by the whole staff group and parents. Each group is run by two members of staff. Children attend nurture groups but remain an active part of their main class group, spend appropriate times within the nurture group according to their need and typically return full time to their own class within two to four terms.
This practice is adapted in our resources as pupils can attend the centres for up to four years, and on rare occasions longer. It is important to set clear and achievable goals for pupils through their Education, Health and Care Plan outcomes, and using assessments from the Autism Assessment process we use to monitor pupils' social and emotional growth and development, a range of professionals and day-to-day observation of pupils. We also work closely with families to understand the journeys their children have taken to reach us, and what are their ambitions for the child. Ultimately, we listen to the voice of the child. They are seeking consistency, safety and clear expectations, with role models to help them achieve this.
What does nurture look like in our centres?
During nurture activities, there is great emphasis placed upon language development and communication. Explanations are clear, supported by role modelling from the adults, clear demonstration and the use of gesture as appropriate. The relationship between the staff, always nurturing and supportive, provides role models that children observe and begin to copy. Food is shared at ‘breakfast’ or ‘snack time’ with many opportunities for social learning, helping children to attend to the needs of others, with time to listen and be listened to. Craft activities allow pupils to direct their learning, to make choices in a safe environment, and to explore widely and safely. Cooking, visits to the local park, barrier games, team games and social activities such as jigsaw, playtimes, Lego Therapy and story times are used to develop a wide range of social skills.
As the children learn academically and socially, they develop confidence, become responsive to others, learn self-respect and take pride in behaving appropriately and in achieving. Nurture groups have been working successfully for more than 40 years in the UK and now in other countries and the principles and practice of this short programme are developed and expanded upon in the centres to support each child.
Trauma informed Practice
Sometimes the young people who join our settings have had early life experiences which have prevented them from developing socially and emotionally as their similarly-aged peers might. Being trauma informed at our settings ensures that all pupils are taught the skills which they need, but that they are supported to understand and manage their emotions as well.
When we are approaching a young person in crisis, we are always mindful that we are not trying to manage their behaviours, but instead are supporting behaviour. We work to connect with pupils before we try to correct them, building up positive relationships and sense of mutual trust and respect, through consistency and using the following steps:
Opportunities for pupils to self-regulate are provided throughout the day, through simple things such as the provision of fidget objects, to weighted blankets, quiet spaces to withdraw, and more robust occupational therapies such as heavy work and deep pressure. Our young people need time to work out what helps them, but also instruction in how to achieve this, which takes time, patience and trust.
To support communication and relationship building with our pupils, we use PACE. Our interactions may sometimes seem unusual, because being playful looks different to every child, but these attempts to break the cycle of negativity and begin to develop trust are incredibly important. We also provide our young people with opportunities to fail, so that they can develop resilience and self-awareness. Visitors to our centres might find adults and pupils engrossed in a board game or two, learning how to lose!
Intervention should be short, focused and with a measurable outcome, not a way of life. However, when children have a complex range of needs, sometimes interventions are needed for longer lengths of time until the learning becomes embedded. Supported by professional colleagues from Occupational Therapy, Speech and Language Therapy and Educational Psychology, a range of interventions are used to support pupils in the centres. Further details about specific interventions can be found across the site. Examples of these might be the use of Colourful Semantics to support literacy development, or the use of phonics programmes to support reading development. We continue to develop our sensory integration to ensure that the sensory needs of our pupils are met in order to support their regulation and development. Interventions might also be two or three short sessions with two pupils working on similar objectives from their Boxall assessments, interacting with a particular game or activity such as cooking or a sports activity, which allows staff to model choices, behaviours and communication skills.