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A ‘baby teachers’ programme which involves a baby and a parent visiting a primary school class throughout the school year, has been found to reduce aggression and bullying by as much as 76 per cent.
The study commissioned by the charity Action for Children revealed that the programme had a significant impact amongst pupils who display higher levels of aggressive behaviour.
The programme, Roots of Empathy, which is available in 27 Scottish local authorities from the Western Isles to the Borders and also in the North of England and Wales, is designed to help pupils understand their own feelings and the feelings of others.
Paul Carberry, director of children’s services at Action for Children Scotland, said: “Over 15,050 children from the Western Isles to the Borders have benefitted from Roots of Empathy since we first brought it to Scotland in 2010.
Roots of Empathy
“Roots of Empathy supports the Raising Attainment for All agenda to close the attainment gap for pupils, particularly those in deprived communities. There is also evidence in the report that it is children who need it most that get the most benefit from Roots of Empathy.
“We welcome the findings of this new research that shows that the innovative programme continues to make a significant impact on the life chances of children across Scotland, at what is a very important age.”
The study, carried out by QA Research and Glasgow University, examined the extent to which the programme changes aggression and empathy in children aged between five and eight years-old. Data was collected from pupils receiving the intervention and from a control group.
The results showed that the group of pupils who tend to benefit the most from Roots of Empathy interventions are those who are low in empathy, low in prosocial behaviour and high in aggression. The programme helps the children in classrooms understand that for brains to develop, they need to be cared for with attention and love.
Loving parent-child relationship
The programme is made up of nine visits over the school year and the children observe the loving parent-child relationship, and grow to understand the baby’s intentions and emotions.
All of these visits are preceded and followed by a session designed to prepare the children and reinforce learning.
A trained Roots of Empathy instructor leads activities designed to help pupils to identify and understand their own feelings and the feelings of others, what makes them unique and how to care for the baby safely.
Action for Children Scotland first brought Roots of Empathy to the UK in 2010, when it was piloted in North Lanarkshire.
Aileen Campbell MSP, Minister for Children and Young People participated in the Roots of Empathy programme at Lanark Primary School. She said: “I loved every session of the Roots of Empathy programme and so did my son Crawford!
Impact will be felt by future generations
“It gave me the chance to see the impact Roots of Empathy has on every single child in the classroom and its potential to make a difference to future generations across Scotland and beyond.
“Crawford was considered the super star of the classroom and the children were so excited to see him at each session to see what progress he had made. On a simplistic level, I found that Roots of Empathy teaches children of primary age to be kind and the research launched clearly supports this.”
Roots of Empathy is delivered exclusively in Scotland by Action for Children Scotland and to date over 15,050 school children have received Roots of Empathy interventions with over 600 families participating from the inception of the programme. By the end of 2015/16, this will rise to 19,800 children and 780 families. For more information, visit actionforchildren.org.uk