‘Baby teachers’ giving lessons in love to help beat bullying

Action for Children's Roots of Empathy programme is having a significant impact on classroom bullying and aggression. From left, director of children's services Paul Carberry, Mary Gordon and Aileen Campbell MSP, whose son Crawford is being held.
Action for Children's Roots of Empathy programme is having a significant impact on classroom bullying and aggression. From left, director of children's services Paul Carberry, Mary Gordon and Aileen Campbell MSP, whose son Crawford is being held.

Bringing babies into the classroom to give lessons in love is having a dramatic effect on bullying in Scottish schools.

Action for Children Scotland has revealed its ‘baby teachers’ programme is reducing childhood aggression by 76%.

Schools throughout Scotland have been taking part in the Roots of Empathy initiative, which so far has involved more than 600 babies and more than 15,000 schoolchildren.

A study looking at the extent to which the programme changes aggression and empathy in children aged between five and eight showed that aggression was 76% lower in the intervention group than in a control group.

Results suggest that the pupils who benefit most from Roots of Empathy are those who are low in empathy, low in prosocial behaviour and high in aggression.

The programme involves babies and their parents visiting primary classes throughout the school year and works by helping the pupils understand that for brains to develop, they need to be cared for with attention and love.

Action for Children Scotland first brought Roots of Empathy to the UK in 2010.

Aileen Campbell MSP, Minister for Children and Young People, who participated in the Roots of Empathy programme with her son Crawford, said: “This simple and effective programme promotes empathy and kindness and shows, through its baby teachers, the power of loving and nurturing relationships - the report demonstrates Roots of Empathy’s effectiveness.

“I am so proud to have been able to share the developmental milestones of Crawford’s life with the beautiful children of Lanark Primary School and to know that the pupils have gained a lasting benefit from this.”

Internationally-recognised educator, child advocate and parenting expert Mary Gordon, who developed Roots of Empathy, said: “Through the leadership of Action for Children and the support of the Scottish government, we are very proud of the implementation integrity in Scotland and the commitment to research.”