Whithorn Primary School and Belmont Primary School have had their newest and smallest members of class in school this year.
Action for Children Scotland’s innovative ‘Roots of Empathy’ programme encourages children to interact in a nurturing manner by bringing a baby – known as a ‘tiny teacher’ - and parent into the classroom.
Baby Cormac and Baby Chloe have played a big part in helping pupils at both these schools better understand emotions. During the school year, the mums, Naoise Douglas from Glenluce and Nicole McIlwraith from Whithorn and babies have visited the schools a number of times, giving pupils the chance to watch baby Cormac and baby Chloe grow and form a bond.
Each school group has 27 sessions over the academic year. 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.
A ‘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. All of these visits are preceded and followed by a session designed to prepare the children and reinforce learning. During each class where the baby is present, the children greet the baby and mother with a welcome song. This is one way the children learn to modify their behaviour to make the baby feel safe and comfortable in their presence.
Chairman of Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Children, Young People and Lifelong Learning Committee Councillor Jeff Leaver stated: “Our Council is committed to giving our children the best possible start in life and we achieve this by delivering programmes like Roots of Empathy. Children have clearly benefitted from this innovative programme. Our Council will continue to support and operate programmes that encourage parent and community participation into school.”
Paul Carberry, Director of Children’s Services at Action for Children Scotland, said: “Over 19,000 children, from the Western Isles to the Borders, have benefitted from Roots of Empathy since we first brought it to Scotland in 2010. The classroom visits by the baby and parent are at the heart of Roots of Empathy, helping school children to better understand their own feelings and the feelings of others around them.”
To date over 19,000 school children have received ‘Roots of Empathy’ interventions with over 780 families participating.