On Tuesday 7th May, pupils in the Pre-Preparatory School gave a very warm welcome to Mitzi. King's first educational support dog. Headmistress of the Pre-Preparatory School, Mrs Openshaw explains how beneficial School Dogs can be.
Children can benefit educationally and emotionally, increase their understanding of responsibility and develop empathy and nurturing skills through contact with a dog. In addition to these benefits, children take great enjoyment from interaction with a dog. At King’s Rochester, we value the development of the children’s wellbeing along with their spiritual, moral and social education in conjunction with their academic progress. We believe that having a school dog is a unique way to enrich all areas of the children’s wider education, skills and mental health.
The dog is a Sprocker Spaniel, called Mitzi, chosen after a lot of research. It is an intelligent breed that will respond very well to training and which is known to be an excellent family dog and, therefore good with children, sociable and friendly. They are also a breed that requires a good deal of exercise and mental stimulation and will enjoy being part of a busy, social environment. This particular dog was chosen as both parents and grandmother were viewed and discussed with the breeder, and noted to be calm around strangers yet playful and friendly.
Is there a risk in bringing a dog into a school environment? Yes, there is, but we have carefully considered school life with a dog and how the risks need to be assessed and managed. A thorough risk assessment has been carried out which has shown that there is very low risk to having a school dog.
We have thought long and hard about the reasons for having a school dog, too, and I wanted to share with you some of the factors that have led to us to having a dog at School.
As recently as March 2019, Sir Anthony Seldon speaking at a ‘Wellbeing in Education Conference’ stated: “Every school should have a dog or another pet to reduce stress in the classroom”. To which Education Secretary Damian Hinds said more schools seem to have ‘wellbeing dogs’ and ‘the pets can really help’. He went on to say that it is a ‘powerful, cost-effective way of helping children’ and that ‘the evidence is very clear that it works, and every single school should have a dog’
It is no longer possible for schools to focus solely on academic achievement without thinking about the emotional wellbeing of pupils. King’s Nursery and Pre-Preparatory School takes this responsibility very seriously and sees the introduction of a school dog as a further measure to enable pupils to engage with their mental health.
A school dog will also offer children boundless opportunities to practise our school values amongst which are kindness, respect and love.
In summary, academic research has shown that dogs working and helping in the school environment can achieve the following:
- Improve academic achievement
- Increase literacy skills
- Calming behaviours
- Increase social skills and self-esteem
- Increase confidence
- Teach responsibility and respect
- Motivate children who are less attentive
- Increase confidence around dogs in general
- Increase and encourage participation in regular exercise
- Provide a willing listener
Pupils and staff across the School cannot wait to see Mitzi enjoying the School grounds.