Primary three pupils from across Inverness gathered today [Friday, 22 June] to say a big ‘thank you’ to the Highlands’ tiniest teachers at a Baby Celebration held by Action for Children Scotland and The Highland Council.
The event marked the end of the school year for Roots of Empathy, an innovative programme that encourages children to interact in a nurturing manner by bringing a baby – known as a ‘tiny teacher’ - and parent into the classroom. The programme was introduced to eight primary schools across the Highlands by Action for Children Scotland.
Today’s Celebration was attended by pupils from Dalneigh, Central and Merkinch primary schools, who thanked babies Skye, Rija and Brandon by writing wishes for their futures and hanging them on a special wish tree.
Paul Carberry, operational director of children’s services at Action for Children Scotland, said: “Classroom visits by the baby and parent are at the heart of Roots of Empathy, helping schoolchildren to better understand their own feelings and the feelings of others. Today’s celebration gives pupils and teachers, as well as staff from Highland Council and Action for Children Scotland, the perfect opportunity to thank Skye, Rija and Brandon for their hard work over the school year.
“Action for Children Scotland introduced Roots of Empathy¬ to 99 schools across the country this year and we simply could not have done it without our tiny teachers - and their parents! I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the babies, mums and dads involved for making the first year of Roots of Empathy such a huge success.”
Rachel Mathieson, mother of Skye, added: “Skye and I have loved being part of Roots of Empathy and meeting pupils from Dalneigh Primary School. They are all so fond of Skye; it is wonderful to see how much they have enjoyed the programme and their wishes for Skye’s future. It has been a very rewarding experience that I would strongly recommend to any new mums!”
As part of the Roots of Empathy curriculum, a baby and parent visit the class nine times throughout the school year. A trained Roots of Empathy instructor guides pupils in labeling the baby's emotions, raising levels of empathy amongst classmates and resulting in a dramatic reduction in levels of aggression among school children. 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.
Separate Baby Celebrations will be held at to allow pupils from Bridgend, Obsdale, Fort William, Upper Achintore and Caol primary schools thank tiny teachers Jackson, Jack, Jason, Callan and Kaleb.
Chairman of The Highland Council’s Adult and Children’s Services Committee, Councillor Alasdair Christie said: “Having this opportunity to work with Action for Children in such a creative and fun way has been a very worthwhile experience. The project fitted in well with our policy on promoting positive relationships in all of our schools. I am sure the children who have taken part have benefitted greatly and have enjoyed the chance to develop new skills. Learning to deal with your emotions and those of other people makes for much better social, emotional and educational understanding.”
Roots of Empathy was developed by internationally-recognised social entrepreneur, educator, author, child advocate and parenting expert, Mary Gordon, in 1996. Over 450,000 children have taken part in the programme worldwide. The programme was piloted in North Lanarkshire by Action for Children Scotland in 2010 - the first time it was delivered anywhere in Britain. In 2011, Action for Children Scotland rolled out Roots of Empathy in 16 local authorities across Scotland.