All schools will have children and young people who would benefit from enhanced nurturing approaches. The need for targeted or intensive support often arises where children and young people have adverse childhood experiences or trauma.
Many significant life events can have a traumatic impact. They may be school related, for example a breakdown in their relationships or an incident that provokes feelings of shame and anxiety, or home related, for example related to change, loss, bereavement, or parental mental health. In some cases, children and young people may be experiencing neglect or abuse. If a practitioner has any concern around this, they should follow the local authority child protection procedures and consult the child protection coordinator within the school.
Understanding what is happening, or has happened in the young person’s life, is really important. Practitioners can show they can be trusted by listening to them and building a relationship that will support them when things are tough. The Healthier Minds guidance for practitioners has advice on how to have supportive conversations when children and young people are talking about their mental wellbeing.
Giving young people dedicated places and time is also crucial. Many of our schools have either a wellbeing hub, a base or a nurture classroom provision. In some cases of EBSA, the use of environments like these might be a good place to work with the young person, especially for checking in first thing in the morning. A separate, private space where they can connect with their trusted adults is very helpful. Practitioners will need to assess this and consult with the young person to establish if it is something that they would want, as some are resistant to any obvious supports that might mark them out as being different when they are in school.
Intensive support for EBSA is usually characterised by: a fully customised timetable and curriculum; minimal, heavily supported transitions between staff and through areas of the building; and the establishment of a truly secure base for the young person, with dedicated space and a core team of staff who can provide predictability and routine. Their subsequent learning experiences will often require tailoring to support their emotional and behavioural needs.
Consultation and advice should be sought from the Joint Support Team where this level of intervention is required, but a good start is to focus on providing experiences that are: predictable, purposeful and pleasurable.
It is likely that some children and young people will experience difficulty regulating their emotions. This may result in them displaying distressed or dysregulated behaviours. For more information on safe de-escalatory working practices, see Appendix G.
Ultimately, the extent to which children and young people feel nurtured will depend on their experience of the adults that they work with on a daily basis. If practitioners can maintain a naturally playful, loving, affectionate, caring and empathic demeanour, as appropriate for the child or young person’s age and stage, they are more likely to foster connectedness and feelings of safety, where children and young people know that they have people they can trust to support them.