Baby Nellie Newbury is just a few months old but she has already proved to be the perfect teacher for pupils at a Cardiff primary school.
Nellie and her mum Shelley are visiting Peter Lea Primary School every three weeks with the children’s charity Barnardo’s Cymru as part of a programme called Roots of Empathy.
The programme aims to encourage pupils to have greater understanding of others, treat each other with kindness and eventually grow up to be good parents themselves.
Pupils get to meet Nellie, watch her development over the months and discover from her mum how she is learning new things.
The lessons are led by Fay Bowring, a project worker with Barnardo’s Cymru and an RoE instructor, who says they have a real impact on the pupils. The immediate result is that children become more caring and understanding of others but it is hoped the lessons will also have a lifelong impact, making them better parents and responsible citizens.
Fay said: “Each session begins with a welcome song when Nellie is introduced to each pupil individually as they gently hold the baby’s feet.
“They talk about what Nellie might be feeling at each stage in her development and they relate that to their own feelings and those of other people. This in turn leads to less bullying and aggression among pupils.
“They learn how important it is for the classroom to be somewhere where Nellie feels safe, how her brain is developing every day, how she’s learning to sit up and grab hold of things, what makes her happy and what makes her cry,” said Fay.
In between Nellie’s visits the nine and 10-year-old pupils have sessions covering nine different themes and involving various areas of the curriculum including maths, music and art.
Roots of Empathy is used around the world and evidence shows a significant and long lasting impact on children.
Class teacher Beth Lewis said: “It is rewarding seeing the change in the children. When I go out into the playground I can see how they are showing empathy towards each other.
“They get so much out of the sessions and I’m sure Roots of Empathy will make a difference to them both now and when they become parents.”
And the verdict from Nellie? “She just loves all the attention,” said her mum.