How a school’s Nurture programme is supporting students from ‘catch-up’ into ‘heads-up’

I recently met Garry Freeman, Director of Inclusion and SENCo of Guiseley School in Leeds at a Westminster Briefing I was part of, giving the parents' view for partnership working. Garry is also Lead SENCo for Leeds NW and Associate of Leeds Beckett University. He has taught History, Curriculum Support and SEN for 38 years in Leeds and Bradford.

Under Garry's lead, Guiseley School has an innovative Nurture programme which helps bring Secondary pupils on the fringes of failure back into the mainstream of learning. The new SEND Code of Practice has determined that there are no children who are naughty by choice and teachers must find out why the behaviour is occurring and then help them to thrive. So I thought it would be a good idea to explore Guiseley's approach further. Nasen, the SEN organisation, recently produced a video about the programme, so I asked Garry if he would explain to us what the idea is all about and why it's so important.


It’s in our nature to nurture...

How many of us as parents have wanted schools, our children’s teachers, to nurture our son or daughter in so many ways as well as support achievements to secure the best exam results?

How many of us as parents sit down at a parent-teacher event just wishing that the professional in front of us would tell us about how our child is developing as a person – and not focus straight away on exams, grades and levels?

How many of us as parents just want our child to be happy in school? Whatever their age, their abilities, their aptitudes – we want our children to be happy.

That is what our Nurture provision at Guiseley School is all about.

It’s now many years since Margaret Boxall came up with the profiling tool we all know as the Boxall Profile, something early years and primary teachers have long thought of as the beginnings of “Nurture groups” in the East End of London. Her profile was a way of identifying, supporting and nurturing young children whose early lives put barriers in the way of their achievement at school. They suffered and all too often still do suffer a lack of parental love, care and nourishment, they have a need for somewhere they could feel safe in the presence of adults they could trust, and they yearn for an atmosphere of positivity where whatever they can do is recognised and valued.

My practice at Guiseley School encapsulates the words of the American philanthropist Harold McAlindon, “Do not follow where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path, and leave a trail.” It is based on my original aim, seven years ago in a Bradford comprehensive, of achieving an environment where those who might otherwise be labelled as low achievers, “difficult” children with low levels of literacy, self-confidence and self-esteem, could flourish and make good progress. They would be safe in the knowledge that I, and other adults working with them, believed in their capacity to learn, to achieve, to become thinking, discerning young adults who could confidently engage with everyone and everything around them as valued members of society.

Moving to Guiseley School in 2010, a school with a very different range of special needs, was a challenge in itself. Working still more closely with primary schools, parents, carers and other professionals from health and social care backgrounds, we have created and developed a culture, a learning environment, where “catch-up” – with all its implications of prior failure – has become “heads-up”. It is an environment where we don’t label children but we identify their needs as soon as possible and develop a strategy to meet those needs and nurture them as the young citizens they are.

We continually ask ourselves,

“What do we need our young people to be able to do over the next school year that they can’t do now?”

“What do we need to do to enable them to do that?”

“With whom do we need to work in order for them to achieve it?”

We believe in our Nurture group students, each and every one of them.

We believe in their right to self-advocacy, to have the right to say to their teachers what they need them to do to help each student to learn and make good progress.

We believe in their ability, their capacity to grow as individuals and learn from their mistakes.

We believe in them.


Does your school have a nurture programme? Does it need one? Leave your thoughts below.

Tania Tirraoro

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