A PIONEERING project that uses babies to beat bullying and aggression in schools has been hailed a success.

The 'Roots of Empathy' initiative, which involved a baby and their parent visiting a primary school class regularly throughout the year, has been found to help pupils understand their own feelings and the feelings of others. The findings also show that it cut aggression, especially among boys.

Researchers have concluded that the approach should be targeted to specific classes, schools or local authority areas across Scotland where there is evidence of a disproportionate number of detentions, behavioural problems and incidents, or records of emotional and behavioural difficulties.

The intervention was trialled across 600 pupils aged five to eight years old from the Glasgow, Highland, South Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire, and West Lothian council areas.

The study was carried out by Glasgow University and QA Research.

Data was collected from pupils receiving the intervention and from a control group, whose class was not visited by a parent and baby.

The research shows that aggression is 76 per cent lower in the intervention group than it is in the control group, with boys showing the greatest benefit.

The initiative was first introduced to the UK in 2010 by charity Action for Children Scotland, who piloted it in North Lanarkshire.

Paul Carberry, director of children’s services at Action for Children Scotland, said: "This new research shows that the innovative programme has made a significant impact on [pupils'] development at what is a very important age.

“Roots of Empathy supports the Raising Attainment For All agenda to close the attainment gap for pupils, particularly those in deprived communities.

“We welcome the findings of this new research that shows the programme continues to help improve the life chances of children across Scotland.”

The scheme is now available to 26 local authorities across Scotland.

Aileen Campbell, Minister for Children and Young People, participated in the project by bringing her infant son, Crawford, to Lanark Primary School, said she and Crawford had "loved every session".

She added: "The Scottish Government has long supported the programme and are proud to have enabled it to roll out across most of Scotland."

Mary Gordon, the parenting expert who developed Roots of Empathy, added: “In the UK, Scotland has been the early adopter.

"Through the leadership of Action for Children and the support of the Scottish Government, we are very proud of the implementation integrity in Scotland and the commitment to research."