Roots of Empathy celebrates decade of success in Northern Ireland | Newry Times | Latest Newry News, Newry Sport and Newry Business for Newry City

Roots of Empathy celebrates decade of success in Northern Ireland | Newry Times

An emotional health and wellbeing programme which has been enjoyed by over 20,000 primary school-aged children in Northern Ireland is this year celebrating its tenth anniversary.


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The Roots of Empathy programme, which is funded by the Public Health Agency (PHA) and coordinated by local health trusts, has been delivered to 306 schools and 22,990 children over the last decade.



Over 5,000 children in 111 schools in the Southern Trust area have taken part in the last ten years.

“Roots of Empathy has been very successful in Northern Ireland,” says Maurice Meehan, the PHA Head of Health and Social Wellbeing (Northern). 

“It is an evidence-based school programme and Queen’s University research of Roots of Empathy in Northern Ireland has found that the programme was effective in increasing children’s positive behaviour and reducing difficult behaviour.



“We are very grateful to Roots of Empathy Canada, HSC Trusts and schools themselves for the commitment to deliver the programme to the highest standard, and have been very impressed with the consistently high value placed on the programme by those schools who host the programme.

“The need for focus on enabling emotional wellbeing for children within education is an increasingly important priority and all the more relevant as we support our children during and following the COVID-19 pandemic.”

At the heart of the programme are a baby and volunteer parents from the local community, who visit the classroom on a monthly basis.

The programme is delivered by a trained instructor over 27 classes throughout the year.



The instructor coaches the students to observe the baby’s development and label the baby’s feelings and reactions, to take the perspective of the baby.

Students learn the names of the baby’s feelings and from this experiential learning, they discover their own feelings and discover the feelings of others.

By experiencing this and feeling empathy, they are therefore less likely to physically, psychologically and emotionally hurt each other through bullying.


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Teachers hosting the programme have reported improvements in children’s emotional wellbeing as they were given opportunities to express how they were feeling in the discussion, through their art and through letters that they wrote to the Roots of Empathy baby.

Noella Murray, Roots of Empathy Mum and Head of St John the Baptist’s College, Portadown says, “I truly believe that Roots of Empathy is one of the most valuable learning and personal and social development opportunities that is currently being offered to young children in Northern Ireland and given the success of this programme, coupled with the growing need for social and emotional support/development of children and young people today, ROE should be rolled out further and all children should benefit from this invaluable provision.”



Lynne Smart, Head of Health Improvement for the Southern Health and Social Care Trust says, “This programme is a great example of partnership working between health and education sectors and how early intervention can help young people to better cope with their emotions and build positive, healthy relationships in preparation for the challenges they may face in adulthood.”


Keep up to date with all the latest Northern Ireland Coronavirus / Covid-19 news HERE.


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