Thursday Thoughts | Developing a Nurturing School

4 August 2022

That children require motivation to do things, especially things that are difficult or challenging. Adults can generally be persuaded to do things they do not necessarily want to because they can see a benefit in the future or a benefit for others, but this is much less common since children and teenagers are naturally immersed in their own self.

You are likely familiar with Maslow’s 1948 article nicknamed ‘hierarchy of needs’ in which he listed all the needs a human has in order to be motivated to succeed. Starting at the bottom of a pyramid shape with basic needs of food, shelter and water, he moves up the pyramid where the pinnacle is self-actualisation or a desire to be the best you can be – or self-motivation.

This model works well for children in education too. No matter how much of a subject or phase specialist the teacher is, if a child does not have all their needs met they will be neither motivated or able to succeed and achieve their potential. This is the simple reason why successful schools are nurturing schools. Nurturing schools are those that parents want their children to attend, children enjoy their time there and ultimately achieve exam results that reflect and exceed their potential. 

Assuming that, in any good school, meeting the psychological and safety needs of pupils is a given, it is the other 3 categories that require focus. They don’t happen without a staff body who fully appreciate the importance of meeting the needs of pupils – and that appreciation requires a school-wide commitment.


Love and Belonging

One of the most important things to girls between the ages of about 8 and 15 years is friendship. Friendship turbulence is natural too at this age when girls are discovering themselves and becoming more independent from parents. Schools can support by helping girls to understand the complexities of friendships and navigate through them. Adults need to carefully support from an appropriate distance and also be alert to any more serious issues that may arise. One of the ways that Downe House Riyadh supports pupils to develop strong feelings of connection and friendship is through regular tutorials individually with a trusted adult and in small tutor groups. House activities are another way of building connections. Each pupil is part of one of our 4 Houses which are a strong part of many British schools. Houses comprise pupils from each year group so that pupils of different ages can work together supporting each other to prepare plays, play sports, participate in debating competitions, singing competitions and much more. 


Self esteem is crucial to developing motivation and promoting success. Teachers can help develop esteem in so many ways. Pupils need to be encouraged through praise and constructive feedback so they can see how to improve and develop a growth mindset; the idea of believing that your intelligence is not fixed but can be developed by hard work. Esteem is also built through clear ground rules and expectations, positively and consistently reinforced by teachers who are fair to all. The wider curriculum and cocurricular activity programme at Downe House Riyadh provide pupils with opportunities to collaborate with others, stretch and challenge themselves and learn new skills. Through these opportunities, pupils learn so much about themselves and of what they are capable.



If pupils are to be able to reach this state of motivation they need to develop a strong sense of values, cultural expectations and their own beliefs. They also need to accept and tolerate other people’s values and beliefs and have a developed understanding of wider perspectives. Downe House Riyadh has a strong ethos and set of values which we call the Downe House DNA. Our DNA is part of everything we do and through this embedded approach our staff set expectations which help pupils develop their own sense of self.

When choosing schools for our children, it can be easy to make comparisons on exam results alone, but really good schools welcome questions about how they will nurture your child in other ways, ensuring they have the tools and confidence to achieve their very best – and exam results will surely follow.

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