Roots of Empathy Positive Influence within Schools

Tuesday, 14th May 2019

A wonderful group of babies and their families from the Tyrone and Fermanagh area were congratulated yesterday at a celebration event in the South West Acute Hospital, Enniskillen for their contribution to teaching the internationally recognised “Roots of Empathy” (ROE) classroom programme to children from local schools.

Elsie Gillanders, EA Critical Incident Emotional Health & Wellbeing Officer; Sarah Bogue, ROE Teacher; Samantha and baby Jacob Bates and Sandra Guy, Western Trust ROE Project Support Officer

The programme is funded by the Public Health Agency (PHA) as part of their commitment to give every child “the best start in life” and is coordinated and led by the Western Trust’s Health Improvement Department in partnership with the Education Authority.

Across the Western Trust there have been a total of 139 ROE programmes since ROE started in 2011/12 in 49 schools. Over 3,400 (3403) students have taken part. During 2018/19 there are 314 children participating in this acclaimed programme.

Roots of Empathy centres on a baby visiting the classroom with his/her parent throughout a school year. The class follow the baby’s milestones and development over the year during which a trained instructor coaches pupils to observe the connected relationship between the baby and parent. The pupils learn and understand empathy from this process as they reflect on their own feelings and those of others. This ‘emotional literacy’ lays the foundations for more safe and caring classrooms as it enables pupils to become more socially and emotionally aware and therefore then more likely to challenge cruelty and injustice.

Evidence shows that children who take part in the programme are shown to experience an increase in proactive social behaviours such as sharing, helping, inclusion and show a decrease in bullying and aggressive behaviour.

Debbie Hunter, Western Trust Health Improvement Officer and ROE programme coordinator commented:

“Through the Roots of Empathy programme the baby has been teaching pupils important life lessons about empathy, love and connection.  This baby celebration event is a unique event as it is the first time in the programme where all of the babies come together in one room where we celebrate and thank each of them and their families for their wonderful contribution to the programme and the children’s lives.”

Ingrid Logan, Principal of Lisbellaw Primary School said:

“The Roots of Empathy programme has had such a positive influence within our school. The teacher involved has been very enthusiastic about this programme, as have the children who have been involved. The children have learned so much from baby Alfie and have been able to express lots of feelings and emotions through discussion when Aflie has visited. We wish to thank the Public Health Agency for the funding and also the Western Trust Health Improvement Department and the Education Authority.  It is without doubt one of the best programmes our school has been involved in.”

 Aine Nugent, ROE Teacher, Christ the King PS, Omagh said:  

“An excellent programme!  The children loved when baby Rosie Mae came because of the funny things she did.  They were also able to understand how fragile a baby is, they learnt to be gentle and realised the dangers surrounding a baby and how to make the environment safe when a baby is in the class.”

Sheena Funston, Western Trust Acting Head of Health Improvement and Equality Involvement Department said:

The Roots of Empathy programme showcases the Western Trust’s commitment to supporting the early year’s agenda and is an example of investment and innovation in health and wellbeing programmes for early years.”

Elsie Gillanders from the Education Authority, relayed a special thanks to all involved:

“The success of the Roots of Empathy programme lies within our local school community and on behalf of the Education Authority, I would like to thank the Roots of Empathy instructors, parents, pupils and babies who have brought the programme to life.  I would also like to show appreciation to the participating schools and commend the Principals and Teachers who have all contributed to the success of the programme.”

Pictured are participants: Elsie Gillanders, EA Critical Incident Emotional Health & Wellbeing Officer; Sarah Bogue, ROE Teacher; Samantha and baby Jacob Bates and Sandra Guy, Western Trust ROE Project Support Officer.

Last updated: 14/08/2019