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(Ireland) Schools add "nurture rooms" to reduce classroom disruptions/emotional problems

Dec 3, 2019, Irish Times: Nurture rooms: how schools are boosting pupils’ wellbeing When the children in Ger Pitt’s class arrive for school they don’t set to work – they set the table. Scoil Mhuire, Coolcotts, Wexford, is a problem-solving school, but instead of just focusing on maths puzzles or riddles, they solve the emotional problems too. And, in Ms Pitt’s class, the children start their problem solving over breakfast. “We sit and chat and nurture ourselves with food,” says Pitt. Her room doesn’t look like a regular classroom. It has a kitchen and dining area, comfortable couches, board games, and a play and work area…. “It is set up to reflect the standard family home,” says principal Mags Jordan. She had noticed an increase in the number of children finding it difficult to emotionally regulate themselves. Sign of the times It’s a sign of the times in which we live that we have children coming to school who, from a social and emotional point of view, are a little less assured of themselves,” says Jordan. These difficulties manifested themselves in behaviours that were disrupting teaching and learning in the school, she says. After engaging with the Special Education Support Services, they heard about a programme based on nurture and, in September 2017, the primary school opened the doors to its first nurture room…. She introduced the programme to her school to tackle disruptive behaviour in the classroom and minimise the use of reduced timetables. She now facilitates the training of teachers in schools around Ireland…. “Once you can teach the children to form a relationship with the teacher and the special needs assistant in the nurture room, then they can form them between their peers – it extends to their class, to the whole school and eventually out into society.”… The deficit in mental health services for children and adolescents in Ireland has been well documented. While Jordan doesn’t believe that schools can or should replace these services, she believes schools have a role to play in addressing issues within their own communities…. Why do so many children require this kind of support? Research by the ESRI published in 2015 indicates that factors such as a child’s socio-economic background as well as parenting styles and parental stress have a big impact on whether a child will have social and emotional difficulties. It found greater difficulties among boys, children living in households experiencing financial difficulties and those living in less safe neighbourhoods. In her experience, Jordan says there are any number of reasons why a child may need access to nurture in school…. The children participate in activities designed to address their social and emotional needs, as well as numeracy and literacy activities. The goal is to reduce the behaviours so that the students can settle to learn in a mainstream classroom. Access to the nurture room is also flexible. “Sometimes we might have a child join us because of a sudden bereavement or because of a change in life circumstances, and you have to be malleable enough to work with them and fit them in,” says Pitt. The time spent in the nurture programme may vary but the results are consistent…. Attachment theory: What teachers can encounter in class Children who have not developed a secure attachment to their parents can have trouble settling in to school to learn, says Maire Delaney, educational therapist….


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