New initiative encourages secondary school’s empathy

Alanna Cunnane

The ‘Empathy School Award’ programme was launched this week, with the aim of acknowledging students and teachers who foster a “caring, nurturing and kind” environment in secondary schools throughout Ireland.

The initiative, which is being spearheaded by the charity ‘Narrative 4’, awards those who take part with a gold, silver or bronze level of recognition, depending on the work they do to move toward a spirit of connection and understanding with others.

To get the highest honour of the programme, ten or more teachers would have to undergo the charity’s online education course on the topic, as well as taking part in other campaigns such as the ‘Walk and Talk’ empathy challenge, the ‘School Empathy Charter’ and a story exchange platform.

The latter of which would inspire students to be open with their own experiences and appreciate each other’s feelings.

Similar to the Green Schools initiative, the Narrative 4 prize promotes extracurricular activities that can then be transferred to everyday life.

Founder of the charity and award winning novelist Colum McCann said that his organisation’s incentive “can be a transformative moment for the better.”

“This is about embedding empathy work into our schools” said McCann, “So many schools are doing amazing work, but it’s clear there’s potential to do so much more”.

“Change starts with education, and by giving our young people the right opportunities. That’s why we developed this award” said McCann in a statement.

“I’ve seen first-hand how this work brings benefits to staff, students and, in fact, entire school cultures. This ripples into our homes and into society, creating a kinder and more nuanced world, something that is very much needed right now” said McCann, whose award winning books include Apeirogon and Thirteen Ways of Looking.

 “We can all see why something like this is so timely,” said TG4 presenter and Spin radio host Louise Cantillon.

“The world is very fractured at the moment, barriers are being reinforced and hate crimes and online bullying are rising. We need to dig deeper when it comes to bringing people back together”.

Alanna Cunnane