Last Updated: Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Nurture groups evaluation and practice in Glasgow

What is this?

Nurture Groups have now been around for over 40 years and have become particularly prominent as a means of offering targeted support for children and young people with social, emotional and behavioural needs (SEBN) in Scotland over the last fifteen years. Glasgow City Council were one of the earliest Local Authorities to invest heavily in Nurture Groups as a means of supporting both attainment and social and emotional learning.

Who is this for?

Managers, Local Authority representatives, Practitioners, Educational Psychologists.

Nurture Groups have many models but some of the core components that are present in a Nurture Group include a focus on: understanding attachment and early development; relationships and adults modelling; social and emotional growth and language and the six Nurture Principles.

In order to ascertain whether their investment in Nurture Groups has had an impact on the children and young people who are involved, Glasgow City Council have continually quality assured their practice and carried out on-going research. This template explores some of the ways in which this has been done.

How can this research be used to support practice?

A number of other local authorities have carried out their own research into the effectiveness of Nurture Groups and have demonstrated the impact that they can have.

Glasgow's model allows other local authorities to have confidence in the fact that Nurture Groups demonstrate a strong evidence base. This is particularly strong in primaries but Glasgow's example also demonstrates the fact that there is emerging evidence for its impact in secondary schools. However, it is important that both schools and local authorities use Nurture Groups to fit their own context whilst adhering as much as possible to the fidelity of the approach.

Glasgow's example also demonstrates how research into the impact of Nurture Groups can be carried out in Local Authorities and schools and provides examples of the types of evidence of impact that might be gathered including: Boxall Profiles, Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaires, Self-esteem measures, attainment measures and qualitative data.

There are also clear links between the Quality Assurance of Nurture Groups and the evaluation and measurement aspects and it is crucial that Local Authorities consider both.

Improvement questions

  • To what extent are you using the evidence base around Nurture Groups to inform your practice?
  • How are quality assurance processes around Nurture Groups being triangulated with other ways of gathering evidence on impact?
  • How are you measuring impact of Nurture Groups in your context?

Full research article

Nurture Groups: a large scale controlled study of effect on development and academic attainment - Reynolds, S; Mackay, T and Kearney, M. British Journal of Special Education, Volume 36 (4), 2009

From Attachment to attainment: The impact of nurture groups on academic achievement' - Mackay, T; Reynolds, S and Kearney, M. Educational and Child Psychology, 27 (3), 2010

PDF file: Nurture Group Quality Assurance - August 2014 (1 MB)

Word file: Secondary Nurture Groups: their fidelity and impact (1.5 MB)

About this research

How was the research carried out?

There have been a number of pieces of research that have been carried out in Glasgow since the introduction to Nurture Groups.

The 2009 paper outlined above was a large scale controlled study that included 221 pupils in 32 Glasgow primary schools. 116 of these attended Nurture Groups whilst the remaining children attended matched schools without Nurture Groups. Quantitative measures where used to assess academic attainment and emotional and behavioural functioning. These included: Baseline assessments for Early literacy; Boxall Profiles (BP); Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaires (SDQ) and the Behavioural Indicators of Self Esteem (BIOS). The second paper addressed further key questions in relation to Nurture Groups including an exploration of the relationship between attachment and attainment.

A further longitudinal study has also been carried out by Glasgow in 2014 which analysed data from 219 young people who accessed Nurture Groups in Glasgow primary schools in the year 2007.

A recent study by Glasgow has also focused on measuring the impact of Nurture Groups on a secondary population, as well as the fidelity of the secondary model, and has gathered pre and post scores for S1 and S2 pupils from 7 secondary schools who have Nurture Groups using the Boxall Profile and further qualitative data.

What are the strengths of the research methodology?

These studies show a range of methodologies and approaches to carrying out research into the effectiveness of Nurture Groups.

The initial study was robust large scale control study which provides good evidence for the positive impact of Nurture Groups on both attainment and social and emotional functioning as compared to a control group.

The longitudinal study is one of the few studies which has attempted to look at the long term impact of Nurture Groups and demonstrates some initial positive findings about the continued inclusion of young people with SEBN in a mainstream context after the intervention of Nurture Groups. It indicates that Nurture Groups are a potentially cost effective and inclusive way to support children and young people who demonstrate social, emotional and behavioural needs.

The secondary study uses pre and post measures to track the impact of secondary Nurture Groups using both the Boxall Profile and qualitative measures. It demonstrates the positive impact that Nurture Groups can have on the social and emotional functioning of young people as evidenced in the increases in developmental scores on the Boxall Profile. This study contributes some promising evidence for Nurture Groups at secondary where there is less research evidence. The other key benefit of these studies is the way in which they can triangulate with Glasgow's Quality Assurance processes to demonstrate the impact that Nurture Groups can have on the population of children and young people who are included.

What is the context for this research?

Glasgow is a large city with some of the highest areas of SIMD (Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation) 1 and 2 in Scotland. There are many children in the city who have a profile of social, emotional and behavioural needs (SEBN) which led to the city investing heavily in a model of Nurture Groups for support. At the time of writing, there were 68 Nurture Groups in primary schools, 20 Nurture corners in early years, 8 Nurture Bases and 3 Enhanced Nurture Provisions. Glasgow has also supported schools in developing whole school Nurturing Approaches and has outlined its vision as 'Nurturing City'. This is a substantial investment for Glasgow as an authority and so it is helpful to focus on the impact that this investment has made.

Consequently, there has been on-going training, coaching and Quality Assurance to ensure that the Nurture Groups are implemented effectively across the city. A further key aspect of tracking impact has been the research aspect of Nurture Groups which has been carried out by the Psychological Service over the years.


This research was not commissioned by Education Scotland and the findings, recommendations and conclusions do not necessarily reflect the views of Education Scotland.