An exploration of the impact of nurture groups on autistic children in mainstream secondary schools (Student Project)

Jo Corney.

PhD in Education.

Recent studies show that many autistic children are placed in educational settings which are unable to accommodate their needs. However, they are expected to continue along the same progression path as all other children. As a result, autistic children are more likely to experience social isolation and mental health issues and are more likely to be excluded from school than children with any other disability (National Autistic Society, 2018a; Ambitious about Autism, 2019; Timpson, 2019). Nurture groups have been hailed for improving outcomes for children with social, emotional, and behavioural difficulties (Cooper and Tiknaz, 2007; Boxall, 2010), yet their impact on autistic children has largely been ignored. For the autistic child, a nurture group can provide the haven and social and emotional assistance they need to escape the sensory processing difficulties of the mainstream (Symeonidou and Robinson, 2018). This study will examine the significance of nurture groups for autistic pupils. It will focus on a group of autistic children before, during and after their participation within a secondary school nurture group. The children’s voices, and those of their parent/carers and teachers, are central to this study. The research questions I aim to address are:

  1. How does a secondary school nurture group positively enhance the social, emotional, and academic development of autistic pupils?
  2. What factors of the nurture group specifically enhance an autistic child’s secondary education experience?
  3. What are the perceptions of the child’s parents/carers and mainstream teachers on the impact of the nurture group on autistic pupils?
  4. What elements of the nurture group can be transferred to the secondary mainstream classroom to help support autistic pupils?