On 26th November (2012) the official launch of the innovative Roots of Empathy programme took place at a reception in the House of Lords in London. Hosted by Baronesses Walmsley and Benjamin, Roots of Empathy Founder/President and Canadian Ashoka Fellow Mary Gordon spoke about the programme and welcomed guests from government, education and supporting charities.
“We are very excited to be launching in England,” Gordon said. “We are grateful to the Big Lottery Improving Futures Fund for investing in a caring, peaceful and civil society by supporting the development of empathy in primary school children. Having visited one of the Roots of Empathy programmes in Lewisham, I am delighted with the integrity of the implementation and congratulate everyone involved, particularly the Pre-school Learning Alliance.”
Ashoka UK are of course doing all we can to support Mary's expansion to the UK. The first Roots of Empathy classes in England began at the end of October in 14 primary schools in the south London boroughs of Lewisham and Croydon. The classes are co-ordinated by the Pre-school Learning Alliance via its Family Pathways partnership with Croydon Voluntary Action, with support from the WAVE Trust and funding from the Big Lottery Improving Futures Fund.
Neil Leitch, Chief Executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said, “The Alliance is thrilled to have introduced Roots of Empathy into England and to be the lead agency in Lewisham and Croydon for this unique and groundbreaking program. We are particularly pleased to be part of an innovative partnership with Croydon Voluntary Action and the WAVE Trust.”
Jo Gough, Head of Community Involvement at Croydon Voluntary Action, said, “We are especially proud, with the Pre-school Learning Alliance, to have helped bring Roots of Empathy to England. Thanks to generous Big Lottery support, several thousand children in London will enjoy and benefit from this innovative program.”
Roots of Empathy was introduced in Northern Ireland and Scotland in 2010, and new programs are currently set to launch in the north of England in Newcastle and in Cardiff, Wales. By the end of this academic year, more than 11,500 children will have benefitted from the program since its introduction in the United Kingdom.
As Graham Allen, the Labour MP who is Chair of the Early Intervention Consortium, which is soon to run the Department for Education’s Early Intervention Foundation, notes, "The purpose of early intervention is to give every baby, child and young person social and emotional capability. As Roots of Empathy Founder/President Mary Gordon made clear in addressing a meeting in the House of Commons last Thursday, if we can help spread Roots of Empathy to scale throughout the UK and beyond, it will be one of the cornerstones of meeting that ambition.
“Roots of Empathy is effective, proven and replicable; it should be part of the early intervention package in every place throughout the land."
Results from an independent research study on the efficacy of Roots of Empathy in Scotland will be available later this autumn, and ongoing research in Northern Ireland, Canada and the United States is adding to the program’s extensive evidence base. More than a decade of findings have consistently revealed that Roots of Empathy children perceive a more caring classroom environment by the end of the programme, and exhibit decreases in aggression, including bullying, increases in both pro-social behaviour and social and emotional understanding, and increases in their knowledge of parenting.