A successful pilot that cries out to be nurtured in Hemel Hempstead

There’s always a new bit of jargon in the ever-changing world of education – so what’s a nurture group when it’s at home?

There’s only one in Dacorum, based at Tudor Primary School in Bennetts End, but it has gone from strength to strength since it was set up nearly a year ago.

Sara Lalis, centre, with nurture group teacher Jacqui Donnelly, right, and youngsters benefiting from the idea

Sara Lalis, centre, with nurture group teacher Jacqui Donnelly, right, and youngsters benefiting from the idea

Children who are identified as needing additional support at school are given the chance to spend between one and two terms on the programme, spending the morning at Tudor but returning to their own schools in the afternoon.

The group accommodates between eight and 10 children at a time, led by teacher Jacqui Donnelly and two teaching assistants who guide them through activities such as laying the table for lunch, circle time and the correct way to conduct polite conversation.

The youngsters – aged between six and seven – learn these skills through cooking together and taking part in structured play activities.

The idea was the brainchild of Dacorum Education Support Centre (DESC)headteacher Sara Lalis, who believed that early intervention was essential to help pupils make good progress.

She said: “I’m so proud to see the group in action. We’ve made incredible progress since we launched last Easter.

“Early intervention is so important. With some of these children, unless something is addressed we lose them, and their attitudes and behaviours become entrenched.”

As the pilot has been such a resounding success, Sara is passionate about campaigning for funds to build a permanent centre to house the group – an ideal site is already identified next to the DESC building in Tenzing Road, Adeyfield.

She said: “We have the space, the will and the desire – now we just need the funds.”

The cost of the project is estimated to be between £150,000 and £200,000, but Justin Donovan – head of education at Herts County Council – said that it was too early to tell if the money would be available.

He said: “The group is very successful and has made a positive impact, but it’s simply too early to tell whether we’re able to build a specific building or move it elsewhere.

“What I can say is that we’re very keen to invest in this type of provision. It’s early days but we’re very supportive of this project.”

County councillor Ron Tindall, who lives in Adeyfield, also sung the group’s praises. He said: “Children are the future, and we need to invest in them. “

Even if funding is granted and the project gets underway, Sara is thinking more long-term.

She said: “We’ve got this embryonic idea which we’re championing, and we want to move wider in order to reach out to more children. Ideally, in the future we’ll have satellites in Tring and Berkhamsted, too.”