Northern Ireland Assembly Flax Flower Logo

Comittee for Education

Press Release

16 June 2010

EDU 08/09/10


The Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Education is today taking a closer look at Nurture Groups [i] in Northern Ireland. These groups were set up to support children experiencing difficulties when starting primary school or when moving to secondary school.

In three separate visits to Nurture Groups, Committee Members will experience for themselves the Nurture Group environment which becomes both home and school for children with a wide range of developmental needs.

Committee Chairperson Mervyn Storey, MLA said: “I visited the nurture group at Ballysally Primary School some time ago and was very impressed with what I saw.

“When the Nurture Group Network gave a presentation to the Committee earlier this year it highlighted the benefits nurture groups can bring to children with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties and how theyimprove outcomes for children previously at risk of suspension from school. The Committee also heard that a university study had found that nurture groups are extremely successful and that improvements occur relatively quickly, typically in two terms.

“The Committee is concerned about the immediate, as well as the medium to longer term, funding for Nurture Groups. If they are to be around to help vulnerable children in the future, they need to be funded now. We hope that our visits today, to the Nurture Groups at Holy Family, Ballysally and St Dallan’s Primary Schools, will encourage these, and other, Nurture Groups to persevere in their good work despite the uncertainty they face regarding future funding.”

As well as opportunities to see the work carried out by Nurture Groups, the Committee will meet with some of the parents of the children, the three School Principals and teaching staff together with members from the Boards of Governors to hear their hopes for the future development of Nurture Groups throughout Northern Ireland.

The Committee has written to the Department of Education in support of Nurture Groups’ efforts to secure future funding. The Committee’s letter highlighted that the Department’s own consultation proposals for Special Educational Needs and Inclusion suggest a future role for Nurture Groups in primary schools.


Notes to Editors

i. Nurture groups are classes of around 10 children set up in schools, mostly in primary schools but also in some secondary schools. Nurture groups help children to re-establish good relationships with adults and promote a sense of security and safety for children whose wider experience may be chaotic and disturbing, enabling children to begin to see school as a place to experience success. On becoming more secure emotionally children find that their capacity for cognitive learning also increases and they begin to make progress with normal school tasks. The groups are an integral part of the school’s provision, understood and supported by all the staff.

The Principal of Ballysally Primary School is Mr Geoff Dunn and the school’s website can be accessed at

The Principal of Holy Family Primary School is Mr Garry Matthewson and the school’s website can be accessed at

The Principal of St Dallan’s Primary School is Mrs Philomena Quinn and the school’s email address is

The Department of Education’s Policy Proposals Consultation Document ‘The Way Forward for Special Educational Needs and Inclusion’ refers to a role for Nurture Groups at page 19, paragraph 7.4 and can be accessed at


Committee Membership:

Mr. Mervyn Storey (Chairperson)
Mr. David Hilditch (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr. Dominic Bradley
Mrs. Mary Bradley
Mr. Trevor Lunn
Mr. John McCallister
Mr. Basil McCrea
Miss. Michelle McIlveen
Mr. John O’Dowd
Ms. Michelle O’Neill
Mr. Alastair Ross

The Clerk to the Committee is John Simmons
Committee for Education, Rm 242, Parliament Buildings, Ballymiscaw, Stormont Belfast BT4 3XX
Tel: 028 9052 1787
Mob: 07900 053929
Fax: 028 9052 1371

Media enquiries to:

Jennifer Pleavin
Communications Officer
Northern Ireland Assembly
Phone: 028 9052 1606
Mobile : 07502 379339

Sinead Murphy
Deputy Communications Officer
Northern Ireland Assembly
Phone: 028 9052 5938
Mobile : 07899 864368