Nurture Advisory & Support Service (NASS)

Supports the Department of Education (DE) funded nurture groups in primary schools across the Education Authority (EA) and manages the Nurture in Education Programme across all education sectors and phases.

Nurture Programmes and Support Available

 The Nurture Advisory & Support Service (NASS) aims to support schools to improve the educational, social, emotional and wellbeingNuturing Advisory Support Service Logo outcomes for children and young people within a whole school nurture approach framework.

This early intervention, preventative model of support is beneficial for all children and young people and provides a range of learning experiences to support the development of their social, emotional and behavioural skills, thus, encouraging success at school and with peers.

Support and monitoring of Nurture Groups

The Department of Education currently funds 62 Nurture Groups in primary schools across the EA. We provide direct support to these provisions in relation to:

  • Advice and guidance on operational arrangements,
  • Placement procedures,
  • Relevant planning and practice of nurture provision, 
  • Teacher Professional Learning (TPL) in relation to whole school staff training , and bespoke TPL,
  • Best practice sharing via cluster support arrangements, and
  • Provision of early intervention and preventative school-based supports through modelling of interventions.

Nurture in Education Programme (NEP)

The NEP programme is an early intervention and preventative framework that seeks to embed nurturing approaches and ethos within all schools.

The programme promotes the key principles of attachment, consistency, resilience and trauma informed practice at a whole school level by utilising the six principles of nurture to enable children who attend school, in challenging circumstances, to begin to have more consistency and stability in their lives.

We provide:

  • Advice, guidance and support in relation to early intervention and preventative practice through Teacher Professional Learning (TPL) in relation to whole school staff training , and bespoke TPL; and
  • Provision of early intervention and preventative school-based supports through modelling of interventions to disseminate best practice / practical strategies.

How can schools access the Nurture in Education Programme (NEP)?

Schools can make an application through the Children and Young Peoples Training Calendar to participate in the NEP, outlining current early intervention/ preventative strategies or programmes that are already in place in their policies and practices.

Schools will also need to complete a Readiness for Nurturing Approaches Analysis. This will be made available to schools following registration and participation within the Nurture in Education Programme.

This analysis is a self-evaluative tool to measure knowledge, understanding and skills; establishing a baseline that indicates areas for improvement that require attention before fully implementing a whole school nurturing approaches framework.  The readiness analysis also ascertains the preparedness of the school and its school staff to apply nurturing approaches within their school community.

For more information contact the NASS via the details below.

What is a Nurture Group?

A nurture group is a school-based provision run by a specially trained qualified teacher and classroom assistant that is set up like a home, with a living area, kitchen and dining area. Through the development of a supportive and structured environment children and young people are encouraged to build their confidence and learn positive behaviour responses.

The aim of the nurture group is to provide a caring and supportive space for pupils attending by developing meaningful and positive relationships with other children and adults. The nurture group also provides opportunity to explore early life learning experiences that they may have missed out on. There is a set daily routine so the children and young people know what they will be doing each day they attend. 

This specialist provision offers “a short term, focussed, intervention strategy, which addresses barriers to learning arising from social, emotional or behavioural difficulties through an inclusive and supportive manner.” (Department of Education Northern Ireland).

Children and young people will attend a nurture group alongside their main class and take part in all school activities.

Currently, funding for the establishment of a nurture group is provided only within the primary school sector. There are 62 DE funded nurture groups in primary schools across the EA.  While there are a number of nurture groups within post primary and special school sectors, these have been established by the schools independent of allocated funding from DE. For more information on nurture funding see the latest announcement on the Department of Education’s website.

The Six Principles of Nurture

There are six principles of nurture that should underpin all work and activities used to support the nurture of children and young people. These principles act as guidance for school staff so they can understand the appropriate support to use when engaging with children and young people.

The six principles of nurture are:

  1. Children's learning is understood developmentally - Early learning experiences. We need to reinforce neural pathways to strengthen them to do the same tasks lots of times.
  2. The classroom offers a safe base – Relationships are key. We need to feel safe and to trust our environment and the people around us to progress.
  3. The importance of nurture for the development of well-being - If we practice something enough we will get better at it …
  4. Language is a vital means of communication - Language has to be heard, used, practiced and relevant to the situation. Develops sequentially.
  5. All behaviour is communication - Relationships. We need to feel safe, to trust our environment and the people around us so we can develop new modes of behaviour.
  6. The importance of transition in children's lives - Experiencing good relationships (and nurture) is the best predictor for learning readiness.

(Ref: Lucas,S., Insley,K. and Buckland,G. (2006) Nurture Group Principles and Curriculum Guidelines Helping Children to Achieve, The Nurture Group Network)

Online Resources / Documents

Contact Details

For further information regarding Nurture approaches, Nurture Groups, and the Nurture in Education Programme please contact:

Staff Contact

Telephone Number


Sean Irving - Regional Manager

028 3831 4473 / 028 3831 4450

[email protected]

Alison Dawson – Locality Coordinator (South West)

028 3831 4473 / 028 3831 4450

[email protected]

Aine-Maire O’Neill – Locality Coordinator (East)

028 3831 4473 / 028 3831 4450

[email protected]

Kelly O’Farrell - Executive Officer

028 3831 4473 / 028 3831 4450

[email protected]

Elaine Honeyford – Locality Coordinator (North)

028 3831 4473 / 028 3831 4450

[email protected]

Helen Stewart – Locality Coordinator (East)

028 38 314473 / 028 38 314450

[email protected]

Karen McWilliams - Locality Coordinator (North West)  028 38 314473 / 028 38 314450 [email protected]
Last updated: 04/05/2023