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At Thurso High School we work together to support the wellbeing of all our pupils with a Nurture Programme.

At the heart of Nurture is a focus on wellbeing and relationships and a drive to support the growth and development of young people, many of whom come from areas of disadvantage and require additional targeted support. A nurturing approach has been promoted as a key approach to supporting behaviour, wellbeing, attainment and achievement in Scottish schools. We have been working very hard as a school to build Nurture into our everyday practice.

A nurturing approach recognises that positive relationships are central to both learning and wellbeing and it can be applied at both the universal and targeted level and promotes inclusive, respectful relationships across the whole school community, including learners, staff, parents/carers and partners. A key aspect is an understanding of attachment theory and how early experiences can have a significant impact on development. It recognises that all school staff have a role to play in establishing the positive relationships that are required to promote healthy social and emotional development and that these relationships should be reliable, predictable and consistent where possible. It is based on the understanding of 6 Nurturing Principles which have been adapted and are outlined below:

Children’s learning is understood developmentally (NP 1)

Nurturing schools have a high level of staff awareness and training about attachment and brain development. The practice of staff will reflect the belief that nurturing relationships bring about meaningful change. Nurturing schools understand where children and young people are developmentally, and offer differentiated opportunities for social and emotional learning of specific skills. Nurturing relationships are modelled by staff and respectful, consistent and positive interactions are clearly identified as the appropriate communication style within the establishment. Expectations are reviewed in the light of what we know about an individual’s development and appropriately challenging targets are set for progress and shared with all staff who work with the young person. 

The environment offers a safe base (NP 2)

There is a welcoming and safe environment for all, that is, parents/carers, pupils and staff, which encompasses all areas of the school, inside and out. Boundaries are set and delivered clearly, fairly and with sensitivity (emotional warmth). There will be consistent evidence of highly attuned de-escalation practice during high stress situations, including use of positive body language, minimal use of language, body space awareness and appropriate use of tone and volume, and avoiding escalation traps. There is good provision of safe spaces, inside and out, to support emotional regulation and feelings of safety and security. Based on individual needs of young people, additional structure and supervision is provided by staff across the school, including at key times and in key areas. The establishment is sensitive in maintaining and promoting key nurturing relationships for the most vulnerable pupils across the establishment, for example by giving key time with a specific staff member.

The importance of nurture for the development of wellbeing (NP3)

Understanding the child’s internal working model of themselves, others and the world. ie their view of themselves. Importance of modelling and shaping through positive behaviour management. Support and challenge, Valued as individuals, Feedback / praise, Know their next steps – know how to improve/move forward, Safe to make mistakes, Feel their voice is valued and worthwhile – pupil consultation

Language is a vital means of communication (NP 4)

All staff, young people work from a model of nurturing relationships, which clearly identifies respectful, consistent and positive interactions as the appropriate communication style within the establishment. Specific, positive, expected behaviours: listening, showing empathy, caring and having positive regard - are named and modelled explicitly by staff. Young people are given the appropriate level of support and challenge to develop these behaviours. Young people are helped to understand and express their feelings and given the opportunity for extended conversations if needed. The language used suits the developmental needs of the child.

All behaviour is communication (NP 5)

‘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. Staff are supported to show high level of awareness of their own emotions and how this links to their communication behaviour. The overall approach should aim to be restorative “in essence”

Transitions are important in children and young people’s lives (NP 6)

There is a high level of awareness of transitions and disruptions in the lives of young people, in planning and providing for the meeting of needs. Transition points, internal and external, are well managed. Appropriate information is shared and, where necessary, there is high quality agency and family work. There are clear welcome routines at transition points: At the start of classes/sessions, at the start of the day & at the start of term. Where appropriate, there are opportunities to touch base with key staff early in the day.

Ways that we support pupils

In addition to whole school nurturing approaches we offer a number of supports for pupils in small groups or individually. Pupils are identified from a range of information including but not limited to:

• Home life (what we know)

• Professional judgement (priority of need)

• Classroom observations

• Boxall Profile

• SDQs – behavioural screening


A mentor is a caring adult who devotes time to a young person on a voluntary basis. Mentors are there to support the pupil in overcoming issues such as Social and emotional difficulties, Behavioural difficulties, Learning difficulties, Self-esteem issues, Anger management issues, Household challenges, Attendance issues and Organisational issues. Mentors meet with mentees once a week usually for half a period. 

Soft Start (Nurture Group)

Soft start is a Nurture group made up of 10 to 12 pupils. Pupils go to soft start at registration and typically stay there until the end of P1 after which they go to their normal classes. The group is run in F6 every morning. Pupils work individually and in small groups on activities that explore emotions and issues around why the pupil is at soft start. Pupils stay in soft start for two to three terms, however this is dependent on the individual. Although pupils miss some of their classes the benefits far outweigh this. Pupils who have been able to address any difficulties at an early stage are able to concentrate more in classes.


Child Support Workers work with individuals and small groups on specific programs depending on their needs. The work they do is similar to mentees and soft start however they are able to work with pupils at different times of the week including out of school. Based in F4 the CSW’s offer break and lunchtime support for pupils that need a ‘safe base’.


E20 offers support to pupils with ASD or other significant needs. Pupils receive 1 to 1 support as required and can use it as a place to visit at break and lunchtimes.


There are a number of groups that run for 8 to 10 weeks for 1 period a week usually two or three times a year. The groups are run by CSW’s, staff or external providers to deliver programmes of work focussing on a specific area. Groups that have been running recently include:


This programme helps pupils learn strategies to help them deal with certain situations. It is an excellent programme to improve confidence and coping skills.


This programme is particularly good for pupils who are finding feelings of stress and anxiety overwhelming. The programme offers pupils the opportunity to understand their feeling and gives them self-help strategies.


This programme requires pupils to mentor nursery pupils in Pennyland nursery. This offers them the opportunity to revisit their own early childhood which has been proven as a strategy that helps pupils deal with social, emotional and behavioural problems. It also encourages pupils to develop socially and in confidence through having responsibility for a little person. This program lasts for over 12 weeks and requires pupils to be out of school for several periods.


Delivered in partnership with the Highlands and Islands Fire Brigade, the programme lasts for 8 weeks and aimed at building confidence and discipline as well as developing important employability skills

Seasons for Growth & Crocus

Both programmes are for pupils who have suffered a bereavement of some kind.

Ways that we support parents

We have staff trained to deliver a ten week Nurturing Parents Course which was developed by 'Family Links'. Details about the course will be accessible soon.

Contact us Statutory info

Contact us

Thurso High School
Ormlie Road, Thurso, Caithness, KW14 7DS

Thurso High School
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