Pets 4 Learning

There is a broad range of research evidencing the benefits of animals working to support educational settings. The benefits of such animals in schools include increased oxytocin (bonding) and dopamine (happiness), while lowering cortisol (stress). All our animals provide our pupils, but are not limited to, having access to a non-judgmental listener, nurturance, increased focus, confidence and decreased levels of stress and anxiety. Individuals who have worked with any of our animals report that one of the most valued qualities is the unconditional love and attention it gives to each pupil with whom they interact with.

Our team of animals are cared for by everyone at the school including the children. Pets club has become very popular over the years, children regularly take our pets to the vets and Greensands Vets nurses often join the group in the school providing expert guidance on the care they need to receive to stay healthy.

In addition to the learning experiences our pupils get through a responsible approach to caring for animals, we have also run a very successful nurture programme. There are a number of reasons for developing this programme and research has proven the following:

  • having a calming effect on pupils, particularly those with behavioural or learning difficulties.
  • improved behaviour and concentration, reduced stress and improved self-esteem.
  • encouraging expression and participation in more withdrawn children.
  • fostering a sense of responsibility.
  • motivating pupils to think and to learn, as children have a high level of natural interest in, enthusiasm for and enjoyment of animals.
  • encouraging respect and thereby improving pupils’ relationships with each other, parents and teachers.
  • teaching children to nurture and respect life.
  • helping work undertaken with the most vulnerable children, and educational improvements with low achievers.
  • helping children build confidence in reading.

A reading companion

Most adults are apprehensive about speaking in public. It is very daunting. Children of any age are no different. Research shows that children can become nervous and stressed when reading to others in a group or an adult. However they often become less stressed, less self-conscious and more confident when reading to a non-judgemental furry friend. Before long we see our children starting to look forward to the reading experience as they are going to read to their new friend. Our animals provide comfort, encourage positive social behaviours, enhance self-esteem, motivate speech and inspire our children to have fun; if our rabbit wiggle their noses then our pupils know they have done a good job! The children are usually selected by teachers as those who would benefit most from this intervention; normally lasting around 10 minutes a day for as long as it takes for the child to become more confident to be heard by our volunteers.

Meet the team

Ready to Learn at 10 Weeks old

Ready to Learn at 10 Weeks old

Milo is a Cockapoo and the newest member of our Pets Therapy team. We have carefully selected the cross breed as these dogs are of medium size, have a gentle and sensitive nature but are highly intelligent making them easy to train. Another consideration was the Cockapoo coat, it is more fleece like than fur and is better for allergy sufferers. Milo will be gradually introduced to the school environment from 8 weeks old and start obedience training from 10 weeks. Miss Rawlings will be Milo’s main carer and live at home with her, whilst in school Miss Rawlings will supervise the main nurture work Milo will be involved with but several competent adults will be recognised as dog handlers during session work.

Our long-term goal is to meet the criteria set by the ‘Pets as Therapy’ association based in High Wycombe. On completion of his training Milo will be assessed by a member of the organisation. This consists of a series of tests, the focus being on the dog’s temperament and ability to work as a therapy dog in a variety of environments and people of all ages. The intended interventions that we will pilot include the following:

  • Working on social skills and direction within nurture group sessions and workshops
  • Providing a calming presence with pupils in crisis and/or in 1:1 nurture sessions
  • Providing motivation for pupils working on gross and fine motor skills
  • Participating in small group lessons
  • Providing an incentive for pupils who meet individual goals in behaviour, social skills, and academic achievement
  • Providing companionship and ‘mindfulness’ activities to pupils in need of stress relief
  • Additional specific tasks will be identified as the program develops and the dog becomes accustomed to school life.

Additional Information:

School Assistance Dog 150316

School Dog Risk Assessment – March 2016