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Casa Caterina Special School




Nurture Group Policy

September 2018








Ratoath Road,
Dublin 7
Phone : (01) 838 5326
Fax: (01) 8688909
E-mail :


Casa Caterina is a Special Co-Educational Primary School for Children with Severe  emotional and behavioural difficulties (SEBD). We are a Catholic School under the trusteeship of the Dominican Sisters.

Casa Caterina Special School has established a Nurture Group, which will open in October 2018.

The Nurture Group is a small class where the children spend a substantial part of each week, but they also remain part of their main class. The aim is that the children will need no longer then 4 terms in the Nurture Group.

The Nurture group will be a bridge between home and school. It will provide a welcoming and warm environment. There is a comfy sofa, kitchen area, space for equipment and play, worktables, a group table, a quiet area and a number of different resources the children can enjoy during each session.  There will be an emphasis on sitting together during activities and talking to each other to establish good relationships.

The Nurture Group will be run by 2 members of staff, fully trained by the Nurture Group Network. The Nurture Group Staff are in an explicitly supportive relationship, which provides a positive model for children to observe and to learn from. The Leaders role is to support the children in feeling accepted and valued. They enable this by engaging with them in learning and in the life of the class, by helping them to relate to each other and by using group dynamics to foster good relationships.


Theoretical Foundation and Key Principles

Nurture Groups are based on the principles of the Attachment Theory developed by John Bowlby, which articulates the importance of the infant’s relationship with their primary care giver, both to their lifelong development and their understanding of all relationships.


The key principles of Nurture Group are as follows:

1. Children's learning is understood developmentally

 Nurture group staff responds to children in terms of the Childs developmental progress assessed through the Boxall Profile, a structured framework for the observation of students’ behavioural, social and cognitive engagement in classrooms. The response to the individual child is 'as they are', underpinned by a non-judgemental and accepting attitude.

2. The classroom offers a safe base 

 The organisation of the environment and the way the group is aimed to reduce anxiety. The nurture group room offers a balance of educational and domestic experiences aimed at supporting the development of the children's relationship with each other and with the staff. The nurture group is organised around a structured day with predictable routines. Great attention is paid to detail; the adults are reliable and consistent in their approach to the children. Nurture groups are an educational provision making the important link between emotional containment and cognitive learning.


3. Nurture is important for the development of self-esteem.

  Nurture involves listening and responding. In a nurture group 'everything is verbalised' with an emphasis on the adults engaging with the children in reciprocal shared activities e.g. play/meals/reading/talking about events and feelings. Children respond to being valued and thought about as individuals, so in practice this involves noticing and praising small achievements; 'nothing is hurried in nurture groups'.


 4. Language is understood as a vital means of communication.

 Language is more than a skill to be learnt, it is the way of putting feelings into words. Nurture group children often 'act out' their feelings as they lack the vocabulary to 'name' how they feel. In nurture groups the informal opportunities for talking and sharing, e.g. welcoming the children into the group or having breakfast together are as important as the more formal lessons teaching language skills. Words are used instead of actions to express feelings and opportunities are created for extended conversations or encouraging imaginative play to understand the feelings of others. 


5. All behaviour is communication.

This principle underlies the adult response to the children's often challenging or difficult behaviour. ‘Given what I know about this child and their development what is this child trying to tell me?' Understanding what a child is communicating through behaviour helps staff to respond in a firm but non-punitive way by not being provoked or discouraged. If the child can sense that their feelings are understood this can help to diffuse difficult situations. The adult makes the link between the external/internal worlds of the child. 



6. Transitions are important in children’s lives.

The nurture group helps the child make the difficult transition from home to school. However, on a daily basis there are numerous transitions the child makes, e.g. between sessions and classes and between different adults. Changes in routine are invariably difficult for vulnerable children and need to be carefully managed with preparation and support.



Who Can Nurture Groups Help

Nurture Group provision can meet the need of some pupils better than others. We aim to include all pupils in Casa Caterina in the Nurture group, although the amount of time each child receives in Nurture Group will vary depending on their need.

The following are suggested as are areas in which the Nurture Group can be particularly beneficial:

  • Encouraging withdrawn pupils to explore new kinds of behaviour and ways of relating to others.
  • Developing the process of maturation in pupils who may be behaving in ways more appropriate to younger children.
  • Assisting pupils who have undergone some traumatic experience (e.g. bereavement, parental separation etc.)
  • Supporting pupils who experience difficulties in adjusting to school life.
  • Helping pupils who find it difficult to relate appropriately to their peers (e.g. inability to play effectively)
  • Supporting pupils with on-going emotional difficulties.

Nurture group provision is considered most effective for children with those needs as listed above, rather than those whose difficulties are expressed in disruptive or aggressive behaviour, although this may be evident.

Our aim is to develop and implement a whole school Nurturing approach in the future.



Whole School Involvement

Whole staff discussion regarding the establishment of Nurture Group began in April 2018. Nurture group staff from another school came in to speak to staff and answer any questions they may have had. All staff have had access to material about Nurture Group and were invited to express their opinions and make suggestions following this. All staff were also invited to apply and interview to become Nurture Group Staff. The Principal, Vice Principal and 4 SNA’s attended a 3 day course provided by the Nurture Group Network.

In September 2018 two trained staff members set up the nurture group. Folders were given to all the teaching staff within Casa Caterina. These folders contain boxall profiles, recommendations for classroom management and outlined numerous activities within the classroom to improve boxall results. Teachers can use this information provided to assist them in their individual education plans and overall pedagogy.



All referrals will be made in consultation with parents and discussed with the principal, Class teacher, Class SNA’s and Nurture Group Staff.

A variety of assessment procedures will be used to inform referrals. These will include the Boxall profiles, Pen portraits and Observations of the pupil. Formal assessment by an Educational Psychologist is not a pre-requisite for admission, but consultation and discussion of relevant factors may be necessary.

Parents will be informed about their child attending Nurture Group.


Pupils Admission/Discharge

The aim is that pupils will need no more than 4 terms in Nurture Group. After 2 to 4 terms, planning for re-integration will take place in consultation with the class teacher, parents and pupils. Support will be provided within the main class as needed. The Nurture Group and class staff will also take a leading role in the wider re-integration of the pupil to mainstream education.


Group Size

The maximum number of pupils in a group at any one time shall not, ideally exceed three. The criteria used to establish the group size will be the current emotional conditions and demands of all the pupils who constitute that particular group.





Regular and on-going assessments will take place for all pupils that attend the Nurture Group. An online Boxall Profile is usually completed before, during and after the intervention. This data may be shared with the class teacher and wider team, and will inform practice and strategies around the school.

Recommendations will be made to Class teachers for areas the children need to work on outside of Nurture Group time.


Programme Content

Activities are planned around different themes throughout the year to provide a stimulating and fun environment for the children.  Nurture Group will have an emphasis on communication, emotions, feelings and modelling positive relationships. Activities in the Nurture Group will be reviewed by class teacher and will relate back to the curriculum.


Recording Progress

The Nurture Group Leader has a responsibility for recording the progress of pupils in Nurture Group. A brief comment will be recorded after each session relating to what children have done and how they were during each session. Each child will have their own individual progress copy.

Nurture Group staff aims to meet with Class Teachers at least once per week to reflect on the pupils sessions.


Planning and Preparation

Nurture Group Staff will be given time to:

  • Plan and Prepare together
  • Meet with parents
  • Keep records and carry out observations
  • Meet with school staff and other professional


Staff Absences

Nurture room staff will not be used to cover absences in classroom during nurture group time. In instances where a Nurture Group staff member is absent, a Nurture trained staff member will be asked to cover.


Parental Link

The school will work in partnership with parents. Parents will be invited to participate in certain nurture group activities such as coffee morning, board game sessions and paired reading groups. Nurture group staff may also work in conjunction with the family to support parents, discuss behaviour management strategies that may be transferable from school to home, and to report on children’s progress.


Nurture Group Staff September 2018

Nurture Group leader: Stacey Byrne

Nurture Group leader: Martha Traynor


Chairperson’s signature: _____________________________________ 






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