The Pembrokeshire Learning Centre in Neyland is pleased to introduce its latest ‘pawsome’ member of the team.
Silver Labrador retriever ‘Blue’ has joined the centre to support the development of student reading and empathy skills along with improving general wellbeing.
Sian Williams, Head Teacher, said he had quickly become very popular.
“We are delighted to have Blue as part of our school community,” she said. “Pupils and staff have been including Blue in many activities and ensuring all his needs are met.”
School dogs have proven to develop early reading skills, improve behaviour, attendance and academic confidence, as well as increasing student understanding of responsibility and develop empathy and nurturing skills.
“We have already seen the calming impact Blue has had within the centre,” said Sian.
“Learners have asked to speak with Blue if they have been upset and have conducted tours of the grounds to welcome him and familiarise him with the new environment. They’ve also been keen for Blue to accompany them on visits to the beach and welcomed him into many of their learning experiences.
When Blue is older he will be trained as a therapy dog and certified by Pets as Therapy, as well as being trained as a reading dog. The Bark and Read programme run by the Kennel Club says this has significant literacy benefits.
“It’s been proven to help children develop literacy skills and build confidence, through both the calming effect the dogs’ presence has on children and the fact that the dog will listen to the children read without being judgemental or critical,” the programme states.
“This comforting environment helps to nurture children’s enthusiasm for reading and provides them with the confidence needed to read aloud.”
It adds: “When dogs are in a room of children trying to read they become less stressed, less self-conscious and more confident because dogs are non-judgemental.
“If children are partnered with a dog to read to, the dog provides comfort, encourages positive social behaviour, enhances self-esteem, motivates speech and inspires children to have fun and enjoy the experience of reading.”
Sian said pupils had really enjoyed welcoming Blue to the school and were looking forward to introducing him to more of Pembrokeshire in the spring and summer months.
“We hope that Blue will continue to assist pupils to develop empathetic skills and enjoy caring and being responsible for one another,” she added.