Roots of Empathy teaches lifelong lessons to primary school pupils

Belinda Simpson in a classroom holding a baby doll

An innovative educational programme which aims to promote sharing, caring and inclusion among primary school pupils is preparing for another busy year ahead.

Under the Roots of Empathy initiative, a parent and baby are brought into the classroom every month, allowing children to observe their close relationship and the infant’s milestones. They learn to identify and reflect on their own feelings, and those of others, which provides an important grounding in social and emotional awareness which is important for the future.

First introduced in 2011, the internationally-recognised programme has continued to grow in popularity and now 38 schools are actively involved across the Northern Trust area.

Kate McDermott, Programme Co-ordinator for the Northern Trust, said: “Roots of Empathy is designed to equip pupils with the skills they need to build healthy relationships and due to early intervention work, they are able to carry these skills into adulthood. We are delighted that a further 14 schools have joined the programme this year and we look forward to sharing these important lessons with more pupils than ever before.”

The success of Roots of Empathy centres on its families and instructors like Alberta Lamont who is retiring after leading the programme in Cookstown Primary School for the past nine years.

During this time, her dedication has ensured that all children in the participating year group had an opportunity to take part and enjoy the benefits of this kind of learning.

Belinda Simpson has been involved with the programme at Ballycraigy Primary School in Antrim since 2013 and she’s now celebrating 10 years as an instructor. She recently became a local mentor for Northern Ireland (one of only four), giving her additional responsibility for supporting new instructors.

Kate added: “On behalf of the Northern Trust we would like to thank Alberta and Belinda for their dedication to teaching local children important life lessons about expressing feelings, respect, inclusion, infant development and safety, and the power of a loving bond between parent and child.

“They have both went above and beyond for Roots of Empathy, helping to make it an important part of schools’ provision for their pupils. We hope Alberta enjoys her well-deserved retirement, and we look forward to continuing to work with Belinda in her role as a local mentor, which will be hugely important to our new instructors.”

Roots of Empathy is co-ordinated and led by the Northern Trust Health Improvement Service, and is funded by the Public Health Agency.

23rd October 2023

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