Elsie works in school most days and usually stays with Mrs Westray or Mrs Shelts.  She is now famous as she has appeared in the Lancashire Governors Spring 2019 Newsletter!  All of the pupils enjoy having Elsie around school.  Read the article below to find out more.......

 

Therapy dogs in Lancashire Schools

The introduction of therapy dogs in schools is becoming more and more popular and as a result we have asked a Lancashire Headteacher to write an article about her experiences of the positive impact this has had at her school.

          “Our school is a happy place because of Elsie!”

           (Amelia, Year 5)

"Elsie, my four year old Cockapoo, was welcomed into Holy Family Catholic Primary School in September 2018 as a therapy dog.  The positive impact she has had in many areas of school life has been incredible and I hope to share some of these examples with you as well as considering; why it is a good idea to have a therapy dog, the different types of work they carry out as well as the various groups who benefit from her being with us here in school.

School life is happier with Elsie around as children, staff, visitors and the Headteacher are more relaxed. Children are given opportunities to nurture and take responsibility for Elsie’s needs and they are encouraged to consider how their behaviour can affect Elsie.  Elsie’s presence in school has resulted in a noticeable improvement in pupils’ behaviour as all children are aware that Elsie likes them to be calm around her at all times.

Research suggests that animals have a positive impact in schools in many areas including wellbeing and behaviour. We have certainly found this to be true at Holy Family as many of our staff and pupils have become very fond of Elsie and consider her their friend.

Elsie is extremely busy throughout the school day so it’s important that she also has her quiet times when she can rest. This is a typical day for Elsie:

At breakfast club, a small group of children join Elsie and I for some play time; we often play tig with her on the field. 

Then, a little bit later, its meet and greet time when she welcomes the children and parents to school.  We have found that this has had a very positive impact on those children who have been anxious about coming into school in the mornings.  They are much happier now they have Elsie there, who is always thrilled to see them.

During the morning, Elsie might have some reading time with a child or a small group of children. We have found that this gives some of our more reluctant readers a purpose to read; so again, another positive.

At break time, Elsie goes out for a walk around our track with children who want to spend a little bit of time with her. We often have a diverse group of children, but typically children who do not feel they have a friend to play with or who are having friendship problems, children who are new to our school or some of our more vulnerable children.

After Elsie’s lunchtime walk, the Elsie Squad then come into school to look after her.  These children are extremely fond of Elsie and all animals and love to take care of her.

Throughout the day, Elsie will help with children who are upset or struggling to regulate their emotions as they tend to relax very quickly when they are with her.  She also enthusiastically greets all parents and visitors (who she sees as her new friends) into school creating a warm and pleasant environment for everyone.

At Holy Family Catholic Primary School, we believe that Elsie helps us to relax and have lots of fun. She enhances the lives of all of our pupils, families and staff and this helps to make us a happy, welcoming school where everyone shines!"

                                                                                    Janet Westray, Headteacher

Observations by the Health and Safety Team

From a Health and Safety point of view, we support any school that makes the decision to bring in a therapy dog.  However there are a few precautions to take.  As well as going through the normal considerations including discussing and getting approval for the proposal from Governors and the staff group, consideration also needs to be given to those children, parents and visitors who may have a fear of dogs.  Once the decision has been made, a full risk assessment must be carried out and documented identifying the hazards and risks posed by having a dog on site.  In order to support schools, the Health and Safety is in the process of developing a Therapy Dog Generic Risk Assessment that can be used by schools when developing their own risk assessment.  This will give you the confidence to know that you have considered everything.  For schools that buy into the Health and Safety Service Level Agreement, your Health and Safety Officer can offer support with this during their annual visit. 

Jill Cornwell

Health, Safety and Quality Service