We are so excited to introduce you to St Catherine’s school dog, Winnie.
Winnie is a female Cockerpoo (a mix of a Cocker spaniel and a Poodle) and is owned by Mrs McCaig, the Head of school. Cockerpoos are renowned for being affectionate, friendly and loyal companions. They are extremely sweet-natured which means they get on with everyone and everything. They are also known to get on well with children.
Cockerpoos thrive on human company and like to be active. They are clever dogs so are easy to train and many of them do a great job as therapy dogs. They have a non-shedding coat which causes less of a reaction for people with allergies.
If your child is allergic to dogs or if you would prefer your child not to spend time with Winnie, then please inform the school immediately and we will ensure that she does not have any contact with them. If we do not hear anything from you, we will assume that you are happy for your child to touch the dog and spend time with her.
Research studies in both Britain and America have shown that having a dog in a school can have many positive benefits, as outlined below:
- A calming effect on pupils, particularly those with additional needs
- Encouraging expression and participation in more withdrawn children
- Fostering a sense of responsibility
- Improved behaviour, attendance and concentration, reduced stress and improved self-esteem
- Motivating pupils to think and to learn, as most children have a high level of natural interest in, enthusiasm for, and enjoyment of animals
- Encouraging respect and thereby improving pupils’ relationships with each other
- Teaching children to nurture and respect life
- Helping children to make progress by developing their confidence and outlook on school life
- Helping children build confidence in reading
Once Winnie is fully trained, she will be given a timetable so that she can spend time with all of the children across the school. One of her main roles will be to listen to children read; dogs give unconditional acceptance which is especially crucial to emerging or less confident readers. She will make an amazing listener and will provide children with a sense of comfort and love as they read to her. Recent research has shown that children who read to dogs show an increase in reading levels, word recognition, a higher desire to read and write, and an increase in social skills. They can also use their reading skills to ‘teach’ Winnie.
At the moment, Winnie is in training and is learning her manners: how to greet people, what to chew (and what not to chew!), where and when she can play and when she needs to be calm and quiet. Whilst this process continues, she will be visiting classrooms on the lead, sitting in assemblies and getting used to school routines.
Having a dog in school is not a decision we have taken lightly and we will be making sure that everything is in place to ensure the experience is positive for both the children and staff but also for Winnie.
- A full risk assessment and policy has been written
- All contact with children will be carefully planned and supervised by myself
- When not working with the children, Winnie will be based in my office
- All areas of the school are vacuumed and surfaces are cleaned daily to ensure high levels of hygiene
- Any child working with Winnie will wash their hands before returning to class
- Winnie will be attending Puppy Training Classes on a regular basis (she has already started an online course during lock down)
We recognise that St Catherine’s is a ‘dog free’ zone and this remains unchanged. As previously mentioned, a full risk assessment has been carried out for having Winnie in the school and she will be fully trained and supervised so she will be the only dog allowed on the premises.
Watch this space for more pup-dates as Winnie settles more into school life and works alongside children at St Catherine’s.