Tiny tots celebrate end of school year

Primary three pupils from across Edinburgh gathered today (Tuesday, 18 June) to say a big ‘thank you’ to the area’s tiniest teachers at a Baby Celebration held by Action for Children Scotland and City of Edinburgh Council.

The event marked the end of the school year for Roots of Empathy, an innovative programme that encourages children to interact in a nurturing manner by bringing a baby – known as a ‘Tiny Teacher’ - and parent into the classroom over the course of the school year. The programme was introduced to Gilmerton, St Francis, Broomhouse, Sighthill and Newcraighall primary schools by leading charity, Action for Children Scotland.

Pupils thanked their Tiny Teachers by writing wishes for their future and hanging them on a special wish tree. Wishes for babies Orla Rose, Liam, Ava, Xavier and Amy included: “I wish you good luck for any challenges that come your way”; “I hope you don’t ever get hurt. I wish you the best for when you grow. Make lots of friends and always listen to your mum and dad” and “I wish you have a Gordon train from Thomas the Tank Engine.”

Cllr Paul Godzik, Education Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “Roots of Empathy is a hugely successful project which greatly benefits everyone taking part. Meeting the parents and babies gives the pupils the chance to learn first-hand what it is like to have an active and responsible role. It allows them to explore their own feelings and, more importantly gain an understanding of the feelings of others. I would like to thank the parents and babies for taking part as their willingness to be involved is key to the project’s success.”

Paul Carberry, Director of Service Development at Action for Children Scotland, said: “Today’s celebration gives pupils and teachers the perfect opportunity to say goodbye to Orla Rose, Liam, Ava, Xavier and Amy and thank them for their hard work this year. Visits by the baby and parent are at the heart of Roots of Empathy, helping schoolchildren to better understand their own feelings and the feelings of others – and I’m sure the pupils have all learned a lot.

Roots of Empathy is an incredibly successful programme that has made a real difference in Scottish classrooms since its launch in 2010. But we just couldn’t do it without our Tiny Teachers - and their parents. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the babies, mums and dads involved for making Roots of Empathy such a huge success.”

Dionne Herd, mother of Xavier, Tiny Teacher at Sighthill Primary School, added: “It is really touching to see the hopes and wishes pupils have for Xavier’s future. We have both loved the experience – Xavier enjoyed being star of the show and I was pleased to have the opportunity to celebrate all of his little milestones with the class. It has been a very rewarding experience that I would strongly recommend to any new mums!”

As part of the Roots of Empathy curriculum, a baby and parent visit the class nine times throughout the school year. A trained Roots of Empathy instructor guides pupils in labeling the baby's emotions, raising levels of empathy amongst classmates and resulting in a dramatic reduction in levels of aggression among school children. Recent independent research into the programme found that 55.5% of pupils displayed an increase in prosocial behavior (voluntary behavior intended to benefit others, such as helping, sharing, co-operating, and volunteering). This is 33.4% more than in pupils in a control group, who did not receive Roots of Empathy.

Earlier this year, Scottish Government announced funding of £1.2 million to take the internationally-acclaimed programme into classrooms in every council area across the country.

Roots of Empathy was developed by internationally-recognised social entrepreneur, educator, author, child advocate and parenting expert, Mary Gordon, in 1996.  Over 450,000 children have taken part in the programme worldwide. The programme was piloted in North Lanarkshire by Action for Children Scotland in 2010 - the first time it was delivered anywhere in Britain.

Additional information:

Action for Children Scotland is a charity that supports and speaks out for the UK’s most vulnerable and neglected children and young people, for as long as it takes to transform their lives. We work directly with 5,000 children, young people, parents and carers in Scotland each year and run 75 services across the country.

Children are at the centre of everything Action for Children Scotland does. For more information on our work, please visit our website here.

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