Items from Jo Overty at the IOM Department of Education

Manx curriculum website created

A WEBSITE dedicated to the Manx curriculum has been created. The site – – provides teachers with a wealth of materials, ideas and contacts. The public is also welcome to use it.

The Island’s curriculum is influenced by the English national curriculum but requires schools to reflect the culture, heritage and geography of the Isle of Man in their lessons. A central Manx Curriculum website has been created to make more Manx-based information available for both primary and secondary teachers.

The website already contains contact details and information pages about many helpful organisations on the Island, including Manx National Heritage, the Manx Heritage Foundation, the Manx Wildlife Trust and the I Love Manx campaign. These and the other pages also include downloadable resources and links to help primary school teachers planning and teaching Manx elements of the curriculum.’

The site will be invaluable for providing instant access to resources that already exist such as the primary schools’ Hop tu Naa pack and the secondary schools’ music scheme Kiaull Manninagh. The website has events and training days listed, as well as a photograph gallery onto which teachers can upload photographs of successful Manx work that has gone on in their schools.

World’s youngest teachers celebrate successful year

TEN of the world’s youngest teachers today met to celebrate a successful year – even though some slept peacefully through all the excitement. Newborn babies who have played a pivotal role in the Island’s pioneering Roots of Empathy programme were among the guests of honour at a celebration hosted by Education Minister Anne Craine MHK.

Roots of Empathy sees tiny babies and their parents visit classes of six and seven-year-olds regularly throughout the year. Trained instructors coach pupils to observe the babies’ development and interpret their feelings. Ten primary schools participated in the award-winning programme’s first year in the Isle of Man, each hosting 10, 40-minute lessons. From September 2010, all primary schools will be participating.

Mrs Craine said: ‘I have been very keen to see the year end results of this programme. Its intention, to enable young people to be able to explore and understand their own feelings and relationships with one another, has very powerful possibilities in reducing aggression and poor behaviour. ‘At a superficial level, it is important for our children to understand the development of babies and their need for nurture but the strength of the programme is that it enables them to understand their own emotions and behaviour towards one another. ‘I know that all of our schools wish that they could have been in the first cohort to pilot the scheme but I am glad that we are continuing to roll out this important programme to all of our schools over the next two years. At some point we have to intervene and try to address the increasingly difficult behaviour that some children display and I think Roots of Empathy plays a valuable part in doing that.’

Another guest of honour at the celebration at St John Ambulance Headquarters was Mary Gordon, the Canadian woman who founded Roots of Empathy in her homeland in 1996. Since then it has been rolled out to New Zealand and the USA. However, the Island is leading the way in Europe as the only country to launch the programme.

Roots of Empathy:

The initiative to introduce the Roots of Empathy programme into Island schools arose from the Early Years Conference hosted by the Department of Education in 2007. The programme explores nine themes: Empathy, culture of caring, respect, power of parenting, participatory democracy, inclusion, diversity, infant safety, non-violence/anti-bullying.

Roots of Empathy sees children taught to observe and interact with tiny babies who are taken into schools on a regular basis. The programme was trialled among Year 2 pupils at Rushen, Ballasalla, Anagh Coar, Willaston, Ashley Hill, Onchan, Braddan, Ballaquayle, Ballacottier and Cronk-y-Berry schools. Next year it will also operate at Arbory, Phurt le Moirrey, Andreas, Vallajeelt, Jurby, Peel Clothworkers, Auldyn, Michael, Dhoon and Marown schools.

Roots of Empathy allows children to gain insight into how others feel and develop a sense of social responsibility for each other. Evaluations have shown it has had a dramatic effect in reducing levels of aggression and violence among schoolchildren by raising social and emotional competence and increasing empathy.

Seven independent evaluations found children on the programme showed:

• Increased social and emotional knowledge
• Increased pro-social behaviour (eg, sharing, helping and including) with peers
• Decreased aggression with peers.

Researchers in three studies looked at specific types of aggression, including bullying. All the studies showed a significant decrease in bullying. Roots of Empathy also contributes to improving the five priority outcomes for children outlined in the Isle of Man Government’s Strategy for Children and Young People: Staying safe, being healthy, enjoying and achieving, making a positive contribution and prospering.

Mary Gordon:
Mary Gordon is an educator, child advocate and parenting expert who advises governments on childcare policy and has won several awards for her work. She is the author of a best-selling book, Roots of Empathy: Changing the World Child by Child, published in 2005. Roots of Empathy was one of three winners of a global competition for projects that help young people at risk.