QMA guidance and standards

The Marjorie Boxall Quality Mark Award involves assessing the work of a nurture group against a set of quality standards. These standards are derived from the six principles of nurture groups, as originally defined by Eva Holmes, and their clearly defined operational characteristics. These principles and characteristics have been distilled and refined over a number of years by those people most directly concerned with the growth of the nurture group model including the originator, Marjorie Boxall. The principles and characteristics are those contained in what has become known as the ‘Classic Boxall’ model, hereafter referred to as the Boxall model. 

The Boxall model of nurture groups presupposes a certain kind of structure and mode of delivery based on original nurture group practice. For the purposes of the Quality Mark Award, however, some acceptable variations are allowed to take into account changes in educational policy and practice as well as changes in the wider social environment over the years.

There is also now a more established research base for evaluating the effectiveness of nurture groups. The published outcomes of the research programmes from the Universities of Cambridge and Leicester bring added weight to the importance of maintaining the integrity of the model in its delivery to vulnerable children and young people in schools and other establishments.

The nurture group model is now well established for children in Key Stages 1 and 2 with an ever-increasing interest and application for children in Key Stages 3 and 4 and alternative provisions. (In Scotland this applies to Early Years, primary, secondary, specialist schools and alternative providers). While it is recognised that there are inevitable differences in how the model is applied in different settings the importance of sticking closely to the key underlying principles remains the same.

All of the above factors contribute to our understanding of the dynamic nature of the nurture group model. However, growth and experimentation should occur within a framework of knowledge and mature reflection on experience. Providing this framework has been a key role for The Nurture Group Network over the years. The introduction of the Marjorie Boxall Quality Mark Award acknowledges good practice and provides evidence of the quality of practice in individual establishments with assurance for parents, other professional agencies and to the local authority that the nurture group provision is of the highest quality and authentic in its approach to meeting the needs of the most vulnerable children.

Other variant models are acknowledged by NGN as being good practice, but do not qualify for this particular, special award which is based on Marjorie Boxall’s work and 40 years' experience of quality and effectiveness in the classic nurture group approach.