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SUE PORTER: 'We have all got a responsibility to the community'

SUE PORTER: 'We have all got a responsibility to the community'

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WHAT could be more important than ensuring the island’s children grow up into adults who can relate effectively with the world around them?

That was the view taken by the team who brought innovative classroom programme Roots of Empathy to the primary schools of the Isle of Man. Sue Porter, service lead for health visiting and school nursing, was at the helm of the Roots of Empathy Steering Group and so, when the group won the award for Corporate Social Responsibility at last year’s Isle of Man Newspapers Awards for Excellence, she accepted the trophy with pride. ‘When I looked at the categories I just thought “Why not have a go at this?” so that we can share our success with the island. It is not until I wrote it all down that I realised all that we have achieved, both by the steering group but more importantly the instructors and the world’s youngest teachers, our babies.

‘We secured the help of the politicians without them ever seeing it in action, they took it on blind faith, no-one had seen the programme in action. I was actually quite shocked to be shortlisted, even more so to be the winner.’

Roots of Empathy sees Year Two children learn how to relate to others by studying a baby in the classroom setting throughout the school year.

The programme, which originated in Canada, has shown a dramatic effect in reducing levels of aggression among schoolchildren by raising social/emotional competence and increasing empathy.

The island was the first place in Europe to implement the programme and, following its success here, areas of Scotland, Northern Ireland and England have all now adopted it.

Four departments of the government initially supported Roots – Education, Home Affairs, Social Care and Health. Over the first three years the programme cost £120,000 to deliver.

During this current academic year, as a result of government budget cuts, funding dropped by 50 per cent leaving the programme with £20,000.

John Knight, chief executive of The Children’s Centre, which has helped deliver Roots of Empathy, says following renegotiations with Roots of Empathy in Canada  the cost of programme delivery this year has been brought down to match the available budget.

But in its fifth year Roots of Empathy will no longer have the financial support of Home Affairs and will be looking at a maximum government contribution of £15,000. This will not be enough to deliver the programme at the level many would wish for.

‘We’ll just have to look at fundraising possibilities’ said John.

Sue is hoping the necessary funding will be secured so that the good work can carry on.

She said: ‘We have all got a responsibility to our children, they are our future?’

To find out more about Roots of Empathy, visit or call Sue on 642678.

This year’s Isle of Man Newspapers Awards for Excellence, in association with RBS International, will be held on November 15.

Application forms are available at

If you would like to find out more about what entering can do for you, contact Trudi Williamson (tjw(at) or Sarah Radcliffe (sarah.radcliffe(at) or 695695 for more information.

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