I have worked with two nurture groups in the past, one worked well, the other…didn’t.
Buy-in and ongoing support and involvement from SLT is vital, as is a ringfenced budget which the lead teacher for the nurture group should control. (Not helpful to get your order list together only to find the DH has spent most of the budget on things she thinks ‘look good for that group’ w/o even seeing your SOW!) Having some integrated lessons is also key – the more practical and physical lessons, like PE, drama, art and DT, we found this helped hugely with reintegration into the full timetable when pupils were ready. We also tried to have ‘skill days’ at least once a term where the HoDs or a very experienced teachers would spend the morning running a project linked to their subject area. Again, this helped with boosting skills as well as familiarisation with the main school staff (esp for those who had been in Nurture from the start of Y7).
Also – don’t use a room which is remote or distant from the rest of the school, or be forced into one which is substandard. This group should have the gold-standard of classrooms and resources – again, this is why SLT support is key.
Try to work with pastoral and SLT to have the Nurture group run an activity which the whole school can engage with – we did a charity project and had both a cake sale and sponsored and pay-to-participate events – so that they are still part of the school and are publicly acknowledged for contributions. We found this really stopped it being a taboo to be in the group as they had the highest fundraising total of all the tutor groups and were ‘the class that makes the banging cakes’ rather than the usual disparaging name calling for any special ed class.
The work you do with nurture will be led by sense and need, but too many forget the fact that the pupils will reintegrate one day to the main school body and need to be able to do so with confidence and the respect of their peers.