Eyemouth Primary School has welcomed a ‘tiny teacher’ into its midst as part of a pioneering Action for Children programme to reduce levels of bullying and aggression in schools.
Babies have been employed as ‘tiny teachers’ in classrooms at five Borders schools as part of the charity’s Roots of Empathy programme.
P3 pupils at Eyemouth are taking lessons from baby Henry, who visits the school with his mum every three weeks.
Eyemouth Primary School headteacher Kathleen Eastern, explained: “We were very interested in getting involved because it fits in well with our school health and wellbeing programme.
“We read up about Roots of Empathy and went along to the launch in Edinburgh to hear from the person who wrote it. We thought it sounded wonderful.”
Through their community links, Eyemouth quickly found a baby and parent willing to take part, and embarked on the programme before Christmas.
“Baby Henry has been in twice so far and the children are really enjoying the programme,” Mrs Eastern said. “Apart from teaching the children empathy that they get from looking at life through the baby’s eyes, they also learn about how babies develop.”
Roots of Empathy aims to reduce problem behaviour in schools, including fighting and bullying, by encouraging children to interact in a nurturing manner, and to identify and understand another’s feelings.
Throughout the programme a baby and its parent are brought into class once every three weeks for 27 weeks to allow pupils to observe the attentive, loving interaction between the parent and child.
The overall aim is to give pupils a better understanding of their own feelings and the feelings of others.
Yvonne McCracken, head of schools (west) at Scottish Borders Council, said: “We are delighted to be involved in such an innovative project. The schools involved have been selected as nurturing environments that will help us to develop this approach across other establishments.”
Councillor George Turnbull, executive member for education at Scottish Borders Council, added: “We are pleased to be working in partnership with Action for Children and Roots of Empathy. This project shows the Council’s commitment to our recently approved Early Years strategy and to the inclusion agenda.”
Independent evaluations of the programme carried out in Canada, where it originated, has revealed a significant increase in peer acceptance in three quarters of children, and a decrease in social aggression in 39 per cent of children who took part.
Louise Warde Hunter, strategic director of children’s services at Action for Children, explains that Roots of Empathy raises levels of empathy amongst classmates, resulting in more respectful relationships and a reduction in levels of aggression among school children.
She said: “We are proud to introduce Roots of Empathy in the Scottish Borders. 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.”