Bradley Stoke Community School (BSCS), which includes primary and secondary education levels, has welcomed a dog into the school setting. At five-and-a-half months old, Wally is just a puppy, but he is gradually being trained to interact with pupils who may benefit from the therapeutic effects of interacting with dogs.
The idea to have a school dog came about as a result of a discussion between three members of staff: Tom Hill (assistant headteacher and head of sixth form), Susie Beresford-Wylie (director of student support) and Steve Moir (headteacher). Tom Hill heard of Wally, a cocker spaniel, through family friends who had just got a puppy themselves. The dog now belongs to Mr Hill and he lends him to the school for three days a week, so the school has not incurred any expenses for Wally’s upkeep. During school hours, Paula Warren (PA to deputy and assistant heads) helps with Wally’s interactions with the students, which involves mainly secondary level but occasionally also primary level children.
Mrs Warren said most of the parents and children have “responded very positively”. Mr Hill pointed out that there are a few pupils who are scared of dogs and a few who are allergic to dogs: the school has a list of these pupils, who are kept away from Wally at all times.
Currently Wally needs to sleep for 18 to 20 hours a day because he is still very young and needs to grow, but he has already got a blog on the school website, and he has helped many of the children with his presence. One student said: “Wally puts a smile on my face and makes me feel calm,” whilst another said: “When I was feeling upset and worried, Mrs Warren asked me if I wanted to see Wally. I played with him for a few minutes and it made me feel a lot better.”
Yet another pupil detailed how, when feeling stressed, taking Wally “outside around the fields to get some fresh air” helped to feel “a lot better and less stressed”.
There are a few schools nationally and in the West Country that have already started making use of dog therapy, but BSCS is the first in the Bradley Stoke area to make active use of having a dog in school. As part of their research into how dogs can help with student support, BSCS staff have looked at reports from other schools in the country. One example is Cirencester’s Deer Park School, which has two Labradors that help with diverse jobs such as encouraging student confidence by listening to pupils read to them. The staff at BSCS hope to train Wally for more involvement at the school as he gets older.
Headteacher Mr Moir said:
“Wally has become a valued member of staff already. He puts a smile on everyone’s faces with a wag of his tail. He is incredibly calm in groups but we are conscious of not overworking him as he is still so young. We look forward to watching him grow to become an even bigger part of our school.”
Many other members of staff mentioned that Wally’s presence instantly brings a smile to students’ faces.
• To find out more about Wally, you can read his blog at wallysdiaryblog.wordpress.com
Photo: Year 7 students with Wally in the BSCS Learning Resource Centre. L-r: Jack Warren, Lucy Day, Ollie Landymore and Lucia Harris.
This article originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine (on pages 4 & 5). The magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to 9,500 homes in Bradley Stoke, Little Stoke and Stoke Lodge. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.
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