Scotland Education and children's services

Glasgow City Council – towards the nurturing city


Photo by BBC Creative on Unsplash

A foreword from the education policy committee convener – Councillor Graham Campbell

The Glasgow model – our nurture approach – has had cross party backing for the best part of 20 years. It’s to the great credit of our caring education professionals that despite all of Glasgow’s multiple deprivation challenges we face (one third of our 17,000 pupils live in poverty, whilst we have nearly a third of all Scotland’s children with additional learning and support needs) our nurture approach delivers results.

After the Covid pandemic and the cost of living crisis on top of nearly 13 years of UK austerity, the nurture approach has been a central key ingredient in maintaining the attainment improvements we’ve seen in our city.

I’m mightily proud as education policy committee convener to have inherited these past successes and to be carrying the ball further as we continue to deliver for our school students.

Councillor Graham Campbell, Chair: Education, Skills and Early Years City Policy Committee February 2023.


Nurture is foundational for children’s learning and well-being in Glasgow Education Services. Our response to trauma-informed thinking and addressing early adversities is underpinned by the theory of attachment and strength-based psychology. For us a nurturing city has schools in which children and young people feel they belong, they are listened to and they and their families are valued. The ethos of nurturing schools is inclusivity and is underpinned by emotional warmth. Relationships are also key and all staff are clear about their roles and responsibilities.

This helps staff understand that supporting all children and young people, and ensuring they make the best possible progress, depends on the environment and curriculum provided: on learning and teaching of the highest quality and on a commitment to continuing professional development.

Nurture also informs the support we offer to families, school communities and most recently to the development of loving and nurturing environments in our residential children’s houses in the city.

This is captured in our vision of Towards the Nurturing City:

‘In Glasgow we aim to ensure that all our schools and nurseries are places in which children feel welcomed, nurtured and secure. We want children and their families to feel that their needs are understood and met in our schools and nurseries. To do this we work to help all staff continually develop nurturing approaches so that they can meet the needs of all children.’

Given the significant impact of poverty on the early childhood experiences of our children and young people in Glasgow, and the effect that this has on later outcomes in adulthood, the nurturing approach allows education services to intervene as early as possible to support children who have missed key early experiences.

Through a comprehensive training and coaching programme, we enable all staff to apply the principles of nurture in all our classrooms and playrooms, ensuring that our children and young people can benefit from nurture-informed thinking throughout their educational experience.

Glasgow’s Nurturing Story

Glasgow’s nurturing journey began in 2000 when four nurture groups were introduced to schools across the city. The impact of these groups was rigorously evaluated by Glasgow Educational Psychology Service (GEPS). This research demonstrated that children who received a targeted nurturing approach made gains in social and emotional development, engagement with learning and gains in attainment. Further research indicated that the impact of nurture was also longer-term, allowing Glasgow education services to maintain some of our most vulnerable children in Glasgow schools, rather than purchasing placements outside the city.

The success of these groups led to further investment and the city now has 68 funded nurture groups in primary schools.

Nurture also became a feature of the inclusive support offered to young people at the secondary stage, with the Glasgow model for nurture being adapted to the context of secondary schools. Evaluation of these groups also showed significant impact for young people and now 16 secondary schools across the city run self-funded nurture groups. The targeted support the groups provide contributes to closing the attainment gap and improving social and emotional well-being.

As research into nurture continued it became apparent that many more children would benefit from a nurturing approach and so, to ensure equity of access, thinking turned to how we could ensure all children and young people could experience a nurturing learning environment.

In 2012-13 the vision of ‘Towards a Nurturing City’ was developed and educational psychologists (EPs) delivered training on the six principles of nurture (developed by Nurture UK) to all staff in all schools and early learning centres.

Since then we have developed a comprehensive programme of professional learning which provides a basis for understanding children’s social and emotional learning needs, and gives us a framework for thinking about how all our classrooms and playrooms can better support the developmental needs of all our children and young people.

This programme is delivered by both EPs and our Nurture Development Officer.

To support our progression with the nurturing city vision we have also developed, in partnership with Education Scotland, a framework for self-evaluating nurture practice. Applying nurture as a whole school approach is now widely used across Glasgow establishments to direct their nurture journey.

As a consequence of the successful implementation of nurturing approaches, which contribute to raising attainment and reducing exclusion, Glasgow is now regarded as a leading city for nurture in the UK and we have worked alongside several other local authorities in Scotland to develop their approach. Education colleagues in Northern Ireland and England are also being supported by Glasgow to implement nurturing approaches in their own context.

Strategic Support for Nurture in Glasgow

Key factors in the success of the Glasgow model of nurture have been consistent investment and strategic support. The implementation of nurturing approaches across education services in Glasgow is overseen by a nurture steering group comprising representatives from all sectors of education and colleagues from the Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership. The group focuses on staff training, quality assurance and self-evaluation, research and development, and consultation with key partners.

We are very fortunate to have a post in Glasgow dedicated to the development of nurturing approaches across all establishments. Through the strategic direction of the nurture steering group, the Nurture Development Officer (NDO) offers key training courses and develops training packages for staff which meet the current needs of the children, their families and our workforce. For example, sessions on family engagement and training to support the use of the nurture principles in Residential Children’s Houses (RCH) have recently been developed. The delivery of nurturing approaches to RCH staff is part of a wider strategic system change to support the implementation & fulfilment of the promise.

The NDO, supported by EPs, ensures Glasgow City Council’s nurture training is informed by up-to-date research, evidence-based practice, and local and national priorities.

Most recently a focus on staff wellbeing has been essential to help them support the children, young people and families of Glasgow following the pandemic and as the cost-of-living crisis deepens inequalities. The NDO and EPs have developed a range of training materials and courses as part of the ‘nurturing staff wellbeing’ programme. Training sessions run throughout the year, providing staff time to reflect on their own well-being needs and strategies to use with their staff team.

Sharing lessons from Ireland and Spain on actions to tackle child poverty

What nurturing support is available in Glasgow?

Nurture groups

Glasgow have nurture groups in many primary and secondary schools. These groups are embedded in school policy and procedures as part of a targeted, early intervention strategy.

Nurture groups have particular assessment criteria, planning and evaluation. The same staff are in the group each day and deliver a range of activities which help to build positive relationships and support children to make attachments to key people in school.  This provides a safe base in which development in learning, social and emotional skills can take place. Most pupils in a nurture group in Glasgow are in Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) 1 & 2. Children in a primary nurture group attend each morning and young people in secondary attend for the first 2 classes of the day.

Quality assurance of the nurture groups ensures our most vulnerable children and families are being supported by staff who are knowledgeable and skilled in attachment, trauma-informed practice & the nurturing principles. All our nurture groups staff have completed the Glasgow City Council theory and practice of nurture training and all nurture staff have successfully completed the qualification associated with the course.

Evaluating the Glasgow model of nurture is crucial in ensuring effectiveness and measuring impact. The Boxall Profile is used to set targets and plan appropriate activities in the group. It also supports the evaluation of progress within the group and measures impact across the city. Our most recent Boxall data gathered from 31 nurture groups showed significant progress in all areas of the profile.  This highlights the progress children make developmentally, and the positive effect this has on learning and social skills development.

Whole establishment nurture

Whole establishment nurture is also a significant focus for our work and it is our aim that all learning contexts are supported by practice which is nurture informed.

To support the implementation and sustainability of whole establishment nurturing approaches a staged approach is offered by EPs and the NDO. Glasgow EPs have developed modules on each of the 6 nurture principles to ensure a deeper understanding of how nurture informs practice and how this can be applied in classrooms and playrooms. Using the principles as a framework, schools develop whole establishment nurturing approaches. These are strategies that develop positive relationships, helping schools to create a safe base for our children and young people. For example, many of our schools have peer support programmes, including playground buddies, peer mentors or mental health ambassadors. These empower our young people and create a sense of belonging in their schools. For more, this video gives examples of some whole-school nurturing approaches.

How do we know it works?

Effectively embedding nurturing approaches is a community effort which does not dodge the hard conversations or take the easy path, and so evidencing the impact of our work is important in maintaining motivation, focus and a drive for continually improving how we support the children and young people of Glasgow.

We use a range of data sources to help us with this. In addition to linking with authority-wide data on exclusion, attendance, and attainment we also regularly gather views through training evaluations, an annual nurture survey, undertaking research projects on specific aspects of our work and seeking the views of children, young people, and their families.

Here’s what children have told us when we ask about how nurture helps them:

“Help people when they feel sad and lonely. Make them feel better with love and care”

“People are respectful and caring. People care about me and treat me like a big family.”

“Help me when I’m mad or sad”

“Helped me with my targets”

“Do better at listening”

“Help me make friends”

Here is a video with children, young people, families and staff talking about the impact of nurture in Glasgow.

We recognise that what we have developed in Glasgow has been very specific to the needs of our city and the contexts we work in. It has taken many years to embed nurture to the extent we have, and we recognise that this work is ongoing. We are always happy to share our experiences and learning; nurture staff in Glasgow are very happy to support other local authorities and education colleagues through consultation, training and arranging visits to Glasgow. Nothing beats seeing real people doing their job well and speaking to children and young people about their daily experiences.

Sign up today and stay connected with local government policy briefings, news, leading-edge research, training and more. 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *