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Teacher’s pet! Pupils get support from ‘wellbeing’ dog

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PUPILS at St John’s First School, Christchurch St East, are benefiting from an unlikely source of support – a ‘wellbeing’ dog called Leo.

Leo was introduced to the school in June last year and is on hand to help calm and support pupils that might be feeling anxious or upset.

School administrator, Jo Alexander, told Frome Times, “Leo is a one-year old ‘kokoni’ (small Greek domestic dog) who was rescued as a puppy in Cyprus and brought over to the UK by charity Paws4Homes. He is in school most days, with his own register and a bed under the head’s desk. He regularly visits children in the school’s nurture group, ‘The Nest’, and he does an amazing job calming and supporting any child who is anxious or upset or who may just need a fuzzy hug to get them through the day. 

“When the school photographer was in school in September, any child who was a little bit nervous about having their picture taken was allowed to have Leo on their lap. Parents who weren’t expecting to get a school photo of their child were delighted when school staff were able to hand theirs out with everyone else’s.

“When Leo had his first birthday in February, children on the school council elected to have a non-uniform day, which raised a spectacular £300 for his rescue charity Paws4Homes.

“Last week, children in Year 4 went on their annual residential trip to PGL in Liddington. Each year they go for three days of activities – raft-building, canoeing, vertical challenge, assault course etc – and this year Leo went too. With him close by, staff found that children who were anxious about any of the activities were able to give them a go. He has become an invaluable member of the school family.”

‘Wellbeing’ dogs in schools hit the headlines last month when it was reported by the BBC that the vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham, Sir Anthony Seldon, praised the work of ‘wellbeing’ dogs in school, stating that every school should have a dog or another pet to reduce stress in the classroom. 

He said that ‘wellbeing dogs’ are “a powerfully cost-effective way of helping children feel more secure at schools” and that they can help improve young people’s sense of wellbeing.

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