Babies help East Antrim schoolchildren learn ‘Roots of Empathy’

Cathy Hopkins and baby Maisie who took part in the Roots of Empathy Programme with Norma Johnston from Moyle Primary School, Larne.  INLT 25-655-CON
Cathy Hopkins and baby Maisie who took part in the Roots of Empathy Programme with Norma Johnston from Moyle Primary School, Larne. INLT 25-655-CON

Six East Antrim primary schools have taken part in a unique scheme aimed at reducing levels of aggression amongst schoolchildren.

The innovative Roots of Empathy programme involves bringing a baby and parent into a classroom once a month throughout the school year, giving youngsters the opportunity to track the infant’s milestones.

Emma Middleton, Laura Shimmon and baby Myla with Clodagh Webb, Principal of Acorn Integrated Primary School, Carrickfergus.  INLT 25-656-CON

Emma Middleton, Laura Shimmon and baby Myla with Clodagh Webb, Principal of Acorn Integrated Primary School, Carrickfergus. INLT 25-656-CON

Pupils from Acorn Integrated PS, Oakfield PS and Sunnylands PS in Carrickfergus, Kings Park PS in Newtownabbey, Fairview PS in Ballyclare and Larne’s Moyle PS have all benefitted from the initiative, which is organised by the Northern Health and Social CareTrust.

The youngsters are encouraged to observe the close relationship between the baby and parent.

Through the baby, the children learn to identify and reflect on their own feelings as well as the feelings of others. This in turn helps pupils to become more socially and emotionally aware and more likely to challenge cruelty and injustice.

The internationally recognised programme was implemented by the Trust in September 2011.

It targets primary schools and is co-ordinated and led by the Northern Trust’s Health and Wellbeing Team and is funded by the Public Health Agency.

Emma McElhone, Roots of Empathy programme co-ordinator with the Northern Trust said: “The programme is designed to help equip pupils with the skills required to build healthy relationships and carry these skills into adulthood.

“Recently, a celebration event was held by the Northern Trust to thank the families involved for sharing the very precious first year of their baby’s development and to acknowledge the incredible contribution they have made to the lives of the students, as well as the schools.

“We were also delighted to award three of our instructors for five year’s commitment to the programme.

“Overall, the celebration event helped to honour how these programmes continue to contribute to more positive parenting and caring communities for all,” Emma concluded.

To find out more about Roots of Empathy programme, visit www.rootsofempathy.org or contact the Northern Trust’s Health and Wellbeing Team on 028 2563 6600.