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The effectiveness of nurture groups for secondary school pupils

Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

About the Project

Children with emotional difficulties often experience problems at school, especially around academic progress and within peer relationships. Nurture groups, first introduced in the 1970’s aim to improve the emotional wellbeing of children who are struggling, through providing them with reparative attachment experiences. A systematic review highlighted evidence of the short-term effectiveness of nurture groups, especially for primary school aged children. However, the review showed limited evidence for older children, for longer term outcomes and in understanding the ‘key’ elements of nurture groups in relation to how they promote the development of secure attachments and emotional wellbeing. The inconclusive findings on the efficacy of nurture group is mainly as the result of a lack of research in this area and the studies that have been undertaken have been poorly designed.

This mixed-methods project aims to address this knowledge gap by examining the effectiveness of nurture groups for secondary school age young people, assess longer term effectiveness and test the psychological mechanisms underlying the development of secure attachments, leading to improved emotional wellbeing.

Participants will be recruited from schools listed on Study 1 will compare the effectiveness of nurture groups on a range of school based and psychological wellbeing outcome measures, in comparison with a matched control group. Study 2 will follow-up the participants in study 1 to accesses longer-term outcome measures (+ 12 months). Study 3 will undertake a realist evaluation of the nurture groups to understand what works for who, in what contexts and how nurture groups promote the development of secure attachments and emotional wellbeing.

Training/techniques to be provided:
Each supervisor has expertise on distinct aspects of the project and will provide training in these areas. Dr Lennox has expertise in the health and wellbeing of adolescents and is an experienced applied researcher with extensive knowledge of quantitative and mixed method approaches and will provide training on mixed methods and realist evaluation. Dr Flynn has expertise in using qualitative and mixed methods in mental health research. External training will be provided on realist methods.

Entry Requirements:
Candidates are expected to hold (or be about to obtain) a First or Upper Second Class Bachelor’s degree (or its international equivalent). A relevant master’s degree, with Merit and a minimum average grade of 60% in both the taught course units and your dissertation (or international equivalent of 60%). Candidates with a particular interest in Forensic Psychology are encouraged to apply.

For international students we also offer a unique 4 year PhD programme that gives you the opportunity to undertake an accredited Teaching Certificate whilst carrying out an independent research project across a range of biological, medical and health sciences. For more information please visit

Funding Notes

Applications are invited from self-funded students. This project has a Band 1 fee. Details of our different fee bands can be found on our website (View Website). For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website (View Website).

As an equal opportunities institution we welcome applicants from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and transgender status. All appointments are made on merit.


Hughes, N. K., & Schlӧsser, A (2014). The effectiveness of nurture groups: a systematic review. Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, 19(4), 386-409.

Davies, O.M. (2011). Evidence-based practice in nurture groups: Using a realistic evaluation framework to explore factors affecting practice and suggest future training directions. Thesis from The University of Birmingham: Doctorate in Applied Educational and Child Psychology.

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