Roots of Empathy

Roots of Empathy at Woodfield Primary School

Roots of Empathy is an evidence-based classroom programme that has shown significant effect in reducing levels of aggression and bullying amongst school children, whilst also raising social and emotional competence and increasing empathy.

The programme was founded in Canada in 1996 by Mary Gordon. She is an internationally recognised educator, award-winning social entrepreneur, author, child advocate and parenting expert, who has created programmes informed by the power of empathy. In 1996, she created the Roots of Empathy programme, which is now offered in different countries around the globe.

At Woodfield Primary School, we are nearly at the end of our first year of delivering the Roots of Empathy programme. We currently have one Reception group and one Year 1 class who receive weekly sessions with specifically trained Roots of Empathy practitioners. Next year, there will be two different classes who receive the Roots of Empathy programme.

At the heart of the Roots of Empathy programme is a mother and her baby, who visit the children every 3 weeks over the whole school year. Over the school year, a trained Roots of Empathy Practitioner guides the children as they observe the relationship between baby and parent, understanding the baby’s intentions and emotions. The children become aware of how the baby changes physically and emotionally over the course of a year whilst observing how a parent’s empathy for her baby can also help the baby to thrive. Through this model of experiential learning, the baby is the “Teacher” and a catalyst, helping children to identify and reflect on their own feelings and the feelings of others.

This “emotional literacy” taught in the program lays the foundation for safer and more caring classrooms, where children are the “Changers”. They are more competent in understanding their own feelings and the feelings of others (empathy) and are therefore less likely to physically, psychologically and emotionally hurt each other through bullying and other cruelties. In the Roots of Empathy programme children learn how to challenge cruelty and injustice. Messages of social inclusion and activities that are consensus building help to contribute to a culture of caring that, in turn, changes the tone of the classroom. 

You will receive a letter from your child’s class teacher to inform you if their class is participating in the Roots of Empathy programme.