‘Tiny Teachers’ help tackle bullying in Highland schools (24/01/12)

Issued by Action for Children

Babies are to be employed as ‘tiny teachers’ in classrooms throughout the Highlands as part of a pioneering Action for Children programme to reduce levels of bullying and aggression in schools.

Roots of Empathy – ‘empathy’ being the ability to identify and understand another’s feelings – is being rolled out in eight in the Highlands.

The programme aims to reduce problem behaviour - including fighting and bullying – by encouraging children to interact in a nurturing manner. A real baby and its parent are brought into the classroom over the course of a school year to allow pupils to observe the attentive, loving interaction between the parent and child. The overall aim is to give pupils a better understanding their own feelings and the feelings of others.

Louise Warde Hunter, strategic director of children’s services at Action for Children, explains:

“Roots of Empathy teaches school children to understand their own feelings and the feelings of others by using a baby as the ‘tiny teacher’. This raises levels of empathy amongst classmates, resulting in more respectful relationships and a dramatic reduction in levels of aggression among school children.”

Bernadette Cairns, senior manager of Additional Support Needs at The Highland Council, said: “Roots for Empathy fits into the Highland Strategy for Promoting Positive Relationships in our schools. The project compliments the work we have been doing over a number of years to raise awareness of the importance of developing positive relationships and emotional literacy with children and young people. We know that having a better understanding of our own emotions and feelings and those of others and then managing these more effectively, leads to better social, emotional and educational outcomes for children and young people. So having the opportunity to work with Action for Children in achieving this aim in an innovative and fun way in some of our primary schools was an opportunity not to be missed.”

Independent evaluations of the programme carried out in Canada - where it originated and has been active for the longest period of time - revealed a significant increase in peer acceptance  in 74% of children and a decrease in social aggression in 39% of children . Louise Warde Hunter continues:

“We are proud to introduce Roots of Empathy in the Highlands. Action for Children has a proven track record in developing innovative approaches which help to significantly improve outcomes for vulnerable children, families and young people.”

Eight baby volunteers from the Highlands have been recruited to take part in the programme.  With their parents, the ‘tiny teachers’ will take part in nine visits to primary three classes over the course of the next year. The sessions will be led by Action for Children staff, trained in the methods of Roots of Empathy.

ENDS

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