‘Tiny Teachers’ in the classroom
Babies are to be employed as ‘tiny teachers’ in classrooms as part of a pioneering programme to reduce levels of problem behaviour in schools.
Roots of Empathy is being rolled out in six primary schools in the Cumnock area – Barshare, Greenmill, Logan, Muirkirk, Netherthird and St John’s. Babies and parents will come into classrooms over the course of the school year to allow pupils to observe the caring relationship between them.
The programme aims to reduce aggressive behaviour by encouraging children to interact in a nurturing manner.
Six baby volunteers – each aged four months – have been recruited from local communities to take part in the programme. With their parents, the ‘tiny teachers’ will take part in nine visits to primary three classes. Sessions will be led by trained staff from East Ayrshire Council and Action for Children.
Independent evaluations of a similar programme in Canada revealed a significant increase in peer acceptance in 74% of children and a decrease in social aggression in 39% of children.
Kay Gilmour, Head of Community Support, said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Action for Children to develop Roots of Empathy in East Ayrshire. The schools involved are looking forward to seeing the ‘tiny teachers’ grow and develop over the coming weeks and months. The programme sits very well with our approach to nurturing and we look forward to lasting benefits for the children involved.”
Councillor Hugh Ross, Spokesperson for Lifelong Learning, said: “This is a new way of helping children to understand relationships with others, to learn to work together and look after each other. I look forward to seeing how the youngsters enjoy seeing babies in the classrooms and how positively it affects their behaviour”.
Louise Warde Hunter, strategic director of children’s services at Action for Children, said: “Roots of Empathy teaches schoolchildren 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.”
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