Babies take on bullying in Edinburgh schools

Savanna-Marie Ormiston with mum Jane looking on in the background visited Philiphaugh Primary School for the last time as part of the Roots of Empathy programme. Picture: Stuart Cobley
Savanna-Marie Ormiston with mum Jane looking on in the background visited Philiphaugh Primary School for the last time as part of the Roots of Empathy programme. Picture: Stuart Cobley
4
Have your say

Taking babies into classrooms to spend time with pupils can help prevent bullying and dramatically reduce aggressive behaviour in Scotland’s primary schools, researchers have found.

More than 15,000 Scottish children – including from the Capital – have taken part in the Roots of Empathy project aimed at improving pupil behaviour, which involves parents taking babies into classes.

The pupils aged between five and eight years spend time observing babies and are taught why an infant is crying with the help of a trained instructor during the lessons.

However, Glasgow University researchers found that the programme reduced childhood aggression by 76 per cent among those taking part and helped make pupils more aware of the feelings of other children.

Teachers also found that it helped improve the behaviour and attitudes of some children who are a bit “spoilt, selfish and get involved in disputes”, the report conducted by the university and the QA Research agency said.

The programme is run by the Action for Children Scotland charity in 26 Scottish local authority areas, including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee and the Scottish Borders.

More than 600 families have participated in the scheme, which involved a parent and their baby visiting the classroom every three weeks during the course of a school year.

The researchers looked at nearly 700 pupils on the programme for the report, which found that teachers noticed “the positive effect of the programme on pupils’ behaviour”.

Paul Carberry, director of children’s services at Action for Children Scotland, said: “This new research shows that the innovative programme has made a significant impact on their development at what is a very important age.”

Roots of Empathy originated in Canada, with independent studies there revealing a significant increase in peer acceptance in 74 per cent of children, and a decrease in social aggression in 39 per cent of children.

The scheme’s founder Mary Gordon is a Member of the Order of Canada and the recipient of a number of awards, including a Public Education Advocacy Award from the Canadian Teachers Federation.

newsen@edinburghnews.com