A dog has been made an official member of a school’s staff to help pupils deal with anxiety brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
BBC News reports that Buddy, a Labrador, works three days a week at Castle Newnham School in Bedford, with pupils aged nine to 16.
Nik Maund, his owner and vice principal, said: “He’s a calming influence and a distraction when children become anxious.”
Tyler, a pupil, said he “helps students when they’re feeling stressed”.
Mr Maund, who is in charge of pastoral care at the state school, said: “Because of the pandemic we’re seeing more anxious children.
“He’s a calming influence, somebody they can read to who doesn’t cast judgement, someone they can walk with, and who acts as a distraction if they’re feeling worried as it can take their focus away from a difficult situation.
“We’re seeing children being able to open up to adults through Buddy… he’s reaching children that we would normally not be able to reach.”
Buddy first visited the school for a take-your-dog-to-work day.
“Seeing the impact he had on children and how their faces lit up, we thought this is something we could pursue,” said Mr Maund.
With the support of the head teacher, Ruth Wilkes, and official assessment, he was allowed in again.
When in March 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic meant the school was shut for most pupils, his visits were paused, until he was welcomed back in April, 2021.
His help was needed “now more than ever”, his owner added.
Tyler, a year 10 pupil, said: “We love having Buddy in our class; he always puts a smile on our face and helps students when they’re feeling stressed.”
Buddy’s time at the school is closely managed, as all the fuss and attention can leave him worn-out.
“The mental stimulation he gets, he does get tired, it wipes him out, so we have to be careful,” Mr Maund said.
The owner-teacher said because pupils were “opening up” because of Buddy, he was looking at bringing the dog’s sixteen-weeks-old sister, Belle, into the school, so more pupils could benefit.
(Story source: BBC News)