Pet Therapy

Research shows that pets can help to build children’s empathy, responsibility and life skills.

Benefits of pets in school

  • Having animals to care for ties in with the school curriculum of emotional and social needs – empathy, care, love, compassion, understanding, commitment and building confidence
  • Pets can encourage a child’s learning needs, especially in reading, communication, observation and speaking. This is a useful tool when teaching all children but can be particularly helpful for those with special educational needs (SEN).
  • They can help children with behavioural needs as time with the pets can be used as a reward
  • For many children, it will be their only contact with a pet as they don’t have them at home

Information from Blue Cross for Pets

The welfare of any animals in school is regarded as a top priority. We consult with the RSPCA animal in school guidance, PDSA PetWise in Schools and each animal has its own appropriate risk assessment.

‘Woof-a-rendum’ in voting for the school dog which, supported British Values teaching by developing the children’s understanding of democracy.

Once a dog is trained and familiar with school life there are a wealth of activities it can do. Such as…

  • run the ‘daily mile’
  • join in at break times
  • listen to readers – this practice originated in the US in 1999 with the Reading Education Assistance Dogs (READ) scheme and initiatives of this type now extend to a number of countries, including the UK, for example, the Bark and Read scheme supported by the Kennel Club schemes like this support the thinking that dogs are non-judgemental, and that children are less stressed, less self-conscious and more confident reading to dogs
  • Support vulnerable families. One school reported that their school dog had improved a family’s attendance at school “because they are going to be greeted by a furry friend every day who is always pleased to see them”.
  • Death: Death is inevitable. However, it is far better to be prepared for this eventuality than have to make decisions when both children, and staff, might be upset. Acknowledging the end of a pet’s life can provide a gentle introduction to loss.

As part of our intervention programmes at Springhead, we receive visits from Jasper who is a member of Pets As Therapy

We also have a School Dog (Rolo) who support interventions with pupils. These could be communication, building relationships, turn taking and personal care.

Some of the positive impact we have already seen is communication, facial expressions, eye contact and a calm body posture when the dogs are present. We are very excited to see this, and many more steps of progress as the relationships continue to build.

‘The school dogs are a crucial support tool for pupils to understand cause and effect and to experience positive social responses.’

Ofsted June 2023