Meet our Class Dog, Otis.
At Austhorpe Primary School we are dedicated to creating a learning environment where all of our children S.H.I.N.E. Our core values are to create a school that enables children to: be successful, be healthy and happy, feel included, are nurtured and are enriched. We are ever on the lookout for new, dynamic and exciting ways to meet these values. In Year 5 we are lucky enough to have a Class Dog, Otis, who’s presence does just that.
Research published by Dogs for Good highlights numerous benefits to having a dog in a classroom. Listed below are some of the most prevalent benefits, identified by Dogs for Good, which I have also observed in our setting:
- A greater enjoyment of being in the school environment, improved attendance and a greater willingness to learn and participate.
- Improved behaviour, social interaction and sense of responsibility in the classroom.
- Increased knowledge of dogs and how to behave safely and appropriately around them.
- Students have greater access to the community with a school dog. For example, the presence of the dog can give them the confidence to go out on short trips outside their school.
- They gain a better understanding of how to take responsibility for another living being. This, potentially, gives them better recognition of their own responsibilities.
- Improvements in the way students interact with each other and with members of staff. The exciting part of this is that these effects extend into the home environment for some students.
And these benefits aren’t just limited to the classroom. Research also shows the wider impact a dog can have in a school setting:
- The presence of the dog in the classroom, around the school and in the staff room has a beneficial effect on students and staff.
- Members of the school have a ‘shared interest’. This encourages everyone to communicate, which has a positive impact on communication and relationships around the school
Education Secretary Damian Hinds says more schools seem to have "wellbeing dogs" and "the pets can really help".
"The quickest and biggest hit that we can make to improve mental health in our schools and to make them feel safe for children, is to have at least one dog in every single school in the country," said Sir Anthony Seldon, The University of Buckingham vice-chancellor. He reports that it is "a powerfully cost-effective way of helping children feel more secure at schools".
At Austhorpe we are driven by Pupil Voice so enjoy these heart-warming testimonies of Otis, from our own children.
“Otis makes me feel happy. When I am sad or down in confidence I see a little ball of fluff running around and the big smile it puts on your face is irreplaceable. We all love this fluff ball. He is like another member of the class and we love having him around.”
“It is good to have Otis in school because if you feel sad you can stroke him and you’re allowed to take him for a walk sometimes. He makes me feel happy and makes me want to work harder.”
“I think Otis is a wonderful dog to have around, there is not a dull day when he is here. He makes me feel happy and helps me learn. He is the best.”
“I like having Otis in school because it is fun watching him and playing with him. Otis also lifts my spirits when he is around. He helps me with my work because he encourages us do our best due to him being so cute. I really like reading to him.”
“I think that it is good to have Otis in school because he makes you want to go to school in the morning and makes me feel really happy to be there.”
“When I wake up in the morning I sometimes think ‘oh, it’s school’ but then I remember Otis and I am happy and want to come to school.”
“I think it is important to have a dog in class because he can take away most of your stress when you stroke him. When you are having a hard time he makes you feel great and wonderful.”
As well as supporting the children’s emotional well-being Otis also supports the children’s learning. The class love having him as a reading dog. As a teacher, I have seen a huge improvement in children’s confidence when reading out loud. “I would recommend a class dog to schools because they cheer you up when you are down and if you are scared of reading out loud you can read to the dog and it helps because they don’t laugh if you trip up on your words and they help make it more comfortable to read out loud” says one child.
In Year 5, we love having Otis as our class dog. I hope this letter demonstrates just how lucky we are to have him.