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‘Tiny Teachers’ help tackle bullying in Cardiff schools
15 May 2012
Babies are to be employed as 'tiny teachers' in classrooms in
Cardiff as part of a pioneering Action for Children programme to
reduce levels of bullying and aggression in schools.
Roots of Empathy - 'empathy' being the ability to identify and
understand another's feelings - encourages children to interact in
a nurturing manner by bringing a real baby and its parent into the
classroom over the course of a school year. Observing the
attentive, loving interaction between the parent and child teaches
pupils to better understand their own feelings and the feelings of
The primary focus of the programme is to reduce problem
behaviour, including fighting and bullying.
Brigitte Gater, operational director of children's services at
Action for Children in Wales, explains how it works:
"Roots of Empathy teaches school children to understand their
own feelings and the feelings of others by using a baby as the
'tiny teacher'. This raises levels of empathy amongst classmates,
resulting in more respectful relationships and a dramatic reduction
in levels of aggression among school children.
We are proud to introduce Roots of Empathy in Wales and would
like to thank The Big Lottery Fund for its support. Action for
Children has a proven track record for developing innovative
approaches which help to significantly improve outcomes for
vulnerable children, families and young people.
At Action for Children, we are committed to promoting the
benefits of early intervention and Roots of Empathy is an excellent
example of this. By increasing levels of 'emotional literacy' in
children at a young age we can lay the foundation for safe and
caring classrooms and, in the long-term, safe and caring
Roots of Empathy is endorsed by the Dalai Lama. Independent
evaluations of the programme carried out in Canada - where it
originated and has been active for the longest period of time -
revealed a significant increase in peer acceptance in 74% of
children and a decrease in social aggression in 39% of children
Action for Children is introducing the programme to primary
schools in Cardiff following investment from the The Big Lottery
Fund's Realising Ambition programme. Over the next three years
2,000 Welsh children will take part.
Baby volunteers have been recruited to take part in the
innovative programme. Along with their parents, the 'tiny teachers'
will each take part in nine visits to a classroom over the course
of the next year. The sessions will be led by Action for Children
staff, trained in the methods of Roots of Empathy.
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, including Canada, the USA,
New Zealand, the Isle of Man, Northern Ireland and the Republic of
The programme was piloted in Scotland last year by Action for
Children - the first time it was delivered anywhere in Britain -
where it has now spread to 100 classes in 15 local authorities.