Babies help beat bullying in schools

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BRINGING a baby into a classroom can reduce aggression and bullying in schoolchildren, a new study has found.

Pupils aged between five and eight, from 26 council areas across Scotland, took part in the programme, which saw a baby visit a primary class throughout the school year.

The study, carried out by charity Action for Children and university researchers, showed that aggression was 76 per cent lower in the children who took part in the programme, compared to those who did not.

Aggression in boys was found to be particularly lower following a visit by a baby and its parent.

The study also found a 53 per cent improvement in the proportion of pupils who increased in affective empathy.

Teachers reported finding that pupils’ offered more constructive approaches to solving differences after they took part in the programme, stating: “For some of the girls in particular, that could be a wee bit spoilt, selfish and get involved in disputes, it has made a big difference to them. They’ve taken it on board; they’ve taken a closer look at themselves and they’ve actually been behaving a little bit better with others and it’s changed them.”

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Overall, results suggest that the group of pupils who tend to benefit the most from Roots of Empathy interventions are those who are low in empathy, low in prosocial behaviour and high in aggression.

The programme helps the children in classrooms understand that for brains to develop, they need to be cared for with attention and love.

Paul Carberry, director of children’s services at Action for Children Scotland, explains: “Over 15,050 children from the Western Isles to the Borders have benefitted from Roots of Empathy since we first brought it to Scotland in 2010. 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 supports the Raising Attainment For All agenda to close the attainment gap for pupils, particularly those in deprived communities.

“We welcome the findings of this new research that shows the programme continues to help improve the life chances of children across Scotland.”

Aileen Campbell MSP, Minister for Children and Young People participated in the Roots of Empathy programme at Lanark Primary School, said: “I loved every session of the Roots of Empathy programme and so did my wee boy Crawford. The Scottish Government has long supported the programme and are proud to have enabled it to roll out across most of Scotland. I was pleased to be able to take part in this at one of the local schools in my constituency and see first-hand the huge impact it has for every single child in the classroom. This simple and effective programme promotes empathy and kindness and shows, through its baby teachers, the power of loving and nurturing relationships.”