Ba­bies halt bul­ly­ing

Kapi-Mana News - - EDUCATION - By KRIS DANDO

A noisy school class­room may not sound like the best en­vi­ron­ment for a three-month-old baby, but the ben­e­fits of the Roots of Em­pa­thy pro­gramme are well-doc­u­mented, its lo­cal co-or­di­na­tor says.

The ini­tia­tive, which has been go­ing three years now, has been in five lo­cal schools this year – Ti­tahi Bay In­ter­me­di­ate, Windley, Rangikura, Tawa and Lin­den. A trained Roots of Em­pa­thy (ROE) in­struc­tor vis­its a class­room 27 times dur­ing the school year, with a par­ent and baby at­tend­ing for nine of th­ese lessons.

Stu­dents learn about how the baby is chang­ing and ob­serve the re­la­tion­ship be­tween mum and child, teach­ing them to un­der­stand the feel­ings of oth­ers. Is­sues like smok­ing and shak­ing a baby are dis­cussed.

The pro­gramme is funded by Min­istry of So­cial Devel­op­ment and there is re­search to show it re­duces lev­els of ag­gres­sion among school­child­ren by rais­ing so­cial and emo­tional com­pe­tence, Michelle Block from Barnar­dos says.

A num­ber of schools in the re­gion are clam­our­ing to be part of ROE, with four more to be added to the ros­ter in 2013.

‘‘We have 20 pro­grammes in 16 schools here in Welling­ton, and there’s 57 schools across the coun­try in­volved.

‘‘It’s free for them and the feed- back we’re get­ting from prin­ci­pals and teach­ers is very pos­i­tive.

‘‘It doesn’t mat­ter whether it’s a ru­ral or ur­ban school, low or high decile – the anti-so­cial and bul­ly­ing is down right across the spec­trum for th­ese schools.

‘‘What they’re see­ing with the baby, and talk­ing about later with their teach­ers and [ROE] in­struc­tors, is hav­ing an ef­fect in the play­ground and at home.’’

Ms Block says she re­ceived feed­back from one class bully who had mended his ways.

‘‘There are won­der­ful in­stances of what Roots of Em­pa­thy is do­ing and each year we aim to grow a lit­tle more across the coun­try,’’ she says.

On Fri­day, from 9.30am till 11.30am at Pataka, there will be a cel­e­bra­tion of the pro­gramme, hosted by Barnar­dos.

Photo: FAIRFAX NZ.

Cre­at­ing em­pa­thy: Stu­dents are en­cour­aged to dis­cuss as­pects of a child’s devel­op­ment dur­ing the reg­u­lar Roots of Em­pa­thy ses­sions and are asked ques­tions like ‘‘why do you think the baby is cry­ing?’’

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