S78: Accelerated Nurture Group

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By September 18, 2019 No Comments

Authors: Mel Cooke, John Maratos

Year: 2019

Event: 2019 TheMHS Conference

Subject: Accelerated Nurture Group

Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers



Mel Cooke is the Manager of Targeted Learning Services which consists of managing Access for Learning as well as a state-wide consultancy role working alongside schools to support students with mental health concerns. Mel collaborated in the development of the Access for Learning Program, an early intervention program for students with trauma background and mental health needs.

John Maratos is statewide Manager, Learning & Behaviour which consists of three service groups that provide restorative educational services for students with social, emotional, behavioural, health and mental health needs. He has led the re-development of these services including the initiation of a teacher-directed mental health service.

The classic Nurture Group pedagogy was designed over 30 years ago for teachers to assist young children presenting at school with attachment disorders, related developmental trauma and generally poor mental health. In South Australia an accelerated Nurture Group model has been operating for over two years with considerable success. Access for Learning is a unique educational program designed by teachers to support children’s mental health, and is part of a larger intervention service that advocates for prevention of student disengagement through early intervention. Access for Learning applies an intentional practice model of personalised learning across educational and developmental domains, that measures growth against specific indicators translatable to the work of schools. Access for Learning challenges traditional fear-based, restrictive practices in education to manage students with mental health problems, while continuing to respect professional boundaries between education and therapy. Results from a recently completed preliminary review of Access for Learning are strong, and a further evaluation is currently underway.

Learning Objectives
Learning Objective 1: The audience will learn about the way teachers can research and design practical interventions within a Positive Behaviour Support framework in response to students with mental health problems. Access for Learning illustrates the effectiveness of prevention and early intervention when combined with personalised planning through specific growth intent targets. The audience will learn how schools can meet the challenge of educational/developmental programming in order to build predictability, connection, trust and the primary relationship that may assist children to access and benefit from therapy.
Learning Objective 2: The central topic of the paper is therapeutic pedagogy and it illustrates an accessible and practical way in which the work of education and therapy can collaborate in effective wraparound. School is mandated for children. It is therefore important that teachers have a sophisticated pedagogy that will assist the early, productive and sustained inclusion of students with mental health problems. For mental health issues this paper offers a platform for school to be a significant protective factor for children and families that will assist mental health services to carry out their work. The paper provides data and evaluation that inform the importance of developing a strong relationship between teaching and therapy.

Cooper, P. & Lovey, J., 1999, Early intervention in emotional and behavioural difficulties: The role of Nurture Groups. European Journal of Special Needs, 14(2): 122-131.
Cooper, P., 2011, Teacher strategies for effective intervention with students presenting social, emotional and behavioural difficulties: Implications for policy and practice. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 26(1): 87-92.
De Jong, T. & Griffiths, C., 2006, The role of alternative education programs in meeting the needs of adolescent students with challenging behaviour: Characteristics of best practice. Australian Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 16(1): 29-40.
Raymond, I. J. (2018). A program logic framework designed to strengthen the impact and fidelity of wellbeing and behavioural interventions. In P. Slee, G. Skrzypiec & C. Cefai (Eds.), Child and adolescent well-being and violence prevention in schools. London: Routledge.

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