Newry primary school selected for new nurture unit

June 24, 2013

St Malachy’s primary school in Newry is one of twenty primary schools throughout Northern Ireland which have been selected as locations for new nurture units in a move that will benefit up to 480 children and their families.

The units, which will help address barriers to learning among children arising from social, emotional or behavioural difficulties, will also require the recruitment of 20 teachers and 20 classroom assistants across the province.  They are being funded under the Delivering Social Change Signature Project, first announced in October 2012 by the First Minister and deputy First Minister.

Social Development Minister, Nelson McCausland, and Education Minister, John O’Dowd, revealed the list of schools that will receive new units last Friday and provided further details of the scheme that will be funded for a two-year period at a cost of £1.5million per year.

Minister McCausland said: “Intervening early in a child’s life can measurably enhance their life chances. The establishment of these additional nurture units allows us to play a key role in improving the lives and educational attainment of our most vulnerable children by targeting support where it is most needed. It is clear from feedback that I have received, and from my visits to a number of nurture units, that this is a much needed programme that addresses the barriers to learning.”

Education Minister, John O’Dowd, said: “Nurture units provide short term, focussed interventions to children who face barriers to learning.

“Trained staff in these units will select the children who will benefit most from the support and will develop individual learning plans agreed with teachers and parents. The units will bridge the gap between home and school and will play a key role in my longer term aim of closing the gap in educational attainment evident in our system.

“Not only will this investment provide tangible support to up to 480 children, it will also provide additional employment opportunities for teachers and classroom assistants.”

Kate Carragher, Vice Principal of St. Malachy’s Primary School in Carnagat spoke to The Examiner following the announcement,

“Having a nurture unit in St Malachy’s will provide a unique opportunity for our children to have access to high quality education” she said,

“It will afford those children who may not yet be ready to participate fully within the mainstream classroom to develop emotionally, physically, spiritually and academically in a secure environment with highly trained staff.

“Hence their likelihood of achieving in all areas when they return to the mainstream will be greatly enhanced.”

The scheme will be monitored by DE and DSD to measure outcomes and to ensure the objectives of the scheme are being achieved. This evaluation will also inform any future expansion of nurture unit provision. The units will be operational by the new school year and advertisements for the posts will be placed in the coming weeks.