Pupils at 14 primary schools in the Northern Trust area - including Ballytober and Straidbilly - have taken part in a programme shown to reduce levels of aggression amongst school children.
The internationally recognised Roots of Empathy programme was implemented by the Northern Health and Social Care Trust in September 2011.
The programme targets year 5 pupils and is co-ordinated and led by the Northern Trust Health Improvement and Community Development Service in partnership with the North Eastern Education and Library Board (NEELB), and funded by the PHA (Public Health Agency).
The innovative scheme brings an infant and parent into a local classroom once a month throughout the school year. Students track the infant’s milestones and are encouraged to observe the close relationship between the baby and parent.
Through the infant, children learn to identify and reflect on their own feelings as well as the feelings of others. This helps pupils to become more socially and emotionally aware and more likely to challenge cruelty and injustice.
Jayne Colville, Senior Health Promotion Officer for Mental Health and programme co-ordinator Northern Trust explained: “The programme is designed to equip pupils with the skills required to build healthy relationships and, as part of early intervention work, enables pupils to carry these skills into adulthood. We are looking forward to welcoming a further eight new schools into the programme in September.”
The annual celebration was held recently in Ballymena as an informal way to thank the “teachers” of the programme, the babies, the parents, the instructors, the schools, the classroom teachers and the principals for their contributions throughout the school year.