Story: Liz Searle
As I enter the Sunflower Room, home of the Nurture Unit at Byron Wood School, I am welcomed by staff members Tracey Lindsell and Sam Brookes, Navlet Reid, the Assistant Head, and the children who attend every morning.
As I share breakfast with the children and staff, I see how polite, friendly and kind they are. The atmosphere is very calm and positive.
The eight children cheerfully discuss how they feel about the Nurture Unit:
“I like the Sunflower Room.”
“They are the bestest teachers in the world.”
The Nurture Unit was formed to build the social and emotional skills necessary for learning and functioning in mainstream school. The children, who spend mornings in the Sunflower Room before returning to their own classes after lunch, focus on basic literacy and numeracy, as well as structured play activities which develop their social skills. Tracey explains that some of the children have not had the early experiences of social play which would allow them to learn and interact within a mainstream class. She emphasises how well children respond to the ‘therapeutic, calming’ atmosphere and activities which build skills such as sharing and turn-taking.
The Nurture Unit was founded just over a year ago after Navlet and Tracey completed four days’ training in Leicester, whose Local Education Authority supports Nurture Units. All Byron Wood staff were introduced to the idea through training and meetings, and now champion the initiative. The Sunflower Room is the first of its kind in Sheffield, a fact of which the school is justly proud. Navlet comments:
“I think every school should have one.”
After two to four terms, the children return to their classes and teachers and classmates have reported that they have developed their confidence and ‘foundation for learning’. Sam mentions that children often ask to join the Nurture Unit as it is viewed so positively within the school and that its ‘graduates’ can come back to visit as a reward for their good behaviour.
Families support the Nurture Unit by working on homework tasks with the children and attending events such as coffee mornings. Tracey says that the families have made ‘120% effort’ to work with the Nurture Unit and Navlet adds, ‘If it makes a difference to one family, it’s worth it’.
The Nurture Unit is going from strength to strength and, with the new library and computer suite to open on April the 16th, Byron Wood has a lot to be proud of.