The tiny teachers will be employed as part of a pioneering scheme run by the charity Action for Children with plans to roll it out across the country.
Launched this week Roots of Empathy, 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 interactions between the parent and child teaches pupils to better understand their own feelings and the feelings of others.
The charity is introducing the programme to primary schools in 15 local authorities across Scotland following investment from the Scottish Government’s Early Years Early Action Fund and Inspiring Scotland.
Over 150 baby volunteers have been recruited to take part in the programme. With their parents, the tiny teachers will take part in nine visits to primary three classes 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.
Louise Warde-Hunter, strategic
director of children’s services at
Action for Children, explains how it works.
“It 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.
“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 societies.”
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.
The programme was piloted in North Lanarkshire last year by Action for Children – the first time it was delivered anywhere in Britain.
Andrew Muirhead, chief executive of Inspiring Scotland, said that it was abundantly clear the support a child receives in their earliest years would become a huge factor in their later life.
“We are delighted to support Action for Children, through the Early Years Early Action Fund, to roll out this programme which will help young children across Scotland to get the best start in life and enable them to go on to achieve their potential,” he said.
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 per cent of children and a decrease in social aggression in 39 per cent of children.
Anne Liddell, head of education quality and support at North Lanarkshire Council, where the scheme was first piloted, said: “The programme has been successful far beyond our expectations.
“It has been warmly endorsed by our schools as energising the delivery of Curriculum for Excellence, particularly within Health and Wellbeing, and enriching our own flagship policy, Raising Achievement for All.