As the COVID-19 pandemic spread, the impact on the community was intense. By summer 2021 we were utilising more resources than every before to support, educate and nurture our children and families. Catch up programs were running, additional staff were employed and bespoke transition programmes created.
Socially and emotionally we recognised that we would have to invest more time and resources to ensure that the children were emotionally regulated in order to achieve their best potential. Our pastoral team, including the SENDCO and trained ELSA staff, delivered support where identified throughout the school but there was still an unmet need so we proposed a new member to the Governing Board - a school wellbeing dog!
Having agreed in principle, we researched the use of dogs in other school settings, the impact that looking after and caring for animals has on school communities and the research that shows that dogs working and helping in the school environment can:
- Improve academic achievement
- Increase literacy skills
- Calm behaviours
- Increase social skills and self-esteem
- Increase confidence
- Teach responsibility and respect to all life
- Help prevent lateness/difficulty coming into school/truancy
- Motivate children who are often less attentive
We researched the best size, breed and temperament of dog, met the breeder and parents and waited for a litter of labradoodles to be born. Tilly was one of a litter of seven puppies and we took ownership of her in summer 2021. In September 2021 she started her training and started slowly acclimatising to the school community. Click here to meet Tilly!
Tilly will have a distinct role to play that is always supervised and carefully managed. She will work with children who need to spend time settling and nurturing, as a reward and as an incentive for behaviour and attendance. We hope that she will become part of the team and loved by both children and staff alike and will help support children and staff through the difficult times coming out of the COVID-19 darkness.