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Kingswood Secondary Academy

Ofsted Good

Bonnie - Academy Dog

We would like to introduce you to a new member of our Academy community – Bonnie.

Bonnie is a 7 month old Spreagle (a cross between a Springer Spaniel and a Beagle) and will be based primarily within our specialist alternative provision setting, working with young people who struggle to regulate their emotions and self-esteem.

There is a wealth of evidence to suggest that children can benefit educationally and emotionally, increase their understanding of responsibility and develop empathy and nurturing skills, through contact with a suitable, calm dog. In addition to these benefits, children take great enjoyment from interaction with animals. By having a school dog we want to encourage those children who are vulnerable, or those less confident. The breed is carefully selected as suitable for this type of environment. Bonnie is well cared for and responsibly owned by Gareth Thomas, Assistant Principal.

We have thought carefully about school life with a dog and how, through careful management, there is a very low risk of harm. The chair of the Academy Advisory Committee has agreed that the school can have a dog for a number of reasons. Numerous research studies have shown the benefits of dogs in schools. Dogs have been working in schools for over 5 years across the UK with several integrated very successfully in schools within the Trust. Dogs have been commonplace in schools in the USA and Australia for many years.

Evidence indicates that benefits include:

• Cognitive – companionship with a dog stimulates memory, problem-solving and game-playing. Reading to a dog can be very beneficial as dogs give unconditional acceptance and are non judgemental. Dogs make amazing listeners.

• Social – a dog provides a positive mutual topic for discussion, encourages responsibility, wellbeing and focused interaction with others. Attendance for some pupils has improved because of a school dog.

• Emotional – a school dog improves self-esteem, acceptance from others and lifts mood, often provoking laughter and fun. Dogs can also teach empathy, compassion and respect for other living things as well as relieving anxiety. This has been known to reduce the percentage of violent or aggressive behaviour in school.

• Physical – interaction with a furry friend reduces blood pressure, provides tactile stimulation, assists with pain management, gives motivation to move, walk and stimulates the senses.

• Environmental – a dog in a school increases the sense of a family environment, with all of the above benefits continuing long after the school day is over.

Though she will visit school, Bonnie will be owned by Gareth Thomas, Assistant Principal who will cover all Bonnie’s veterinary costs. Her vaccination record is completely up to date and she is regularly flea’d and wormed. She has been chosen for her mild temperament, friendliness and minimally moulting coat. She is small, weighing only 9kg and is a very affectionate, kind and friendly dog who has attended puppy classes on behaviour and socialisation.

Bonnie will not be allowed in school if she is unwell and will be kept on a lead when moving between classrooms or on a walk. She will be under the full control and supervision of an adult at all times and is fully trained to a crate. Pupils at the Academy never have sole responsibility for, or be left alone with Bonnie, and will be reminded of what is appropriate behaviour around Bonnie every time they meet her. They will remain calm, be gentle and taught how to approach her. They will not feed her and will learn about how dogs express their feelings through body language. Pupils will never clean up after the dog.

Our Academy does have a ‘no dogs’ policy, however Bonnie will be the school dog and will be in school for a specific purpose. She will be on a leash at all times when moving around the school property and will always be accompanied by an adult. The site remains a ‘no dog’ site for all other dogs. Some children may have had upsetting experiences and thus have a fear of dogs (or another animal). Bonnie will be calm and gentle around children; she has a very loving and gentle nature. Experience and research have shown that, with proper guidance and handling, children can learn to overcome their fear of animals and grow in respect and appreciation for them. However, It is understandable that some of you may be concerned about possible allergic reactions to a school dog. The Spreagle breed is known to have minimal shedding. Bonnie will be subjected to a thorough cleanliness and grooming regime. We will ask parents who are concerned to make the school aware if their child has an allergy.

Any parent who does not wish their child to interact with the school needs to complete and return the consent form that will be sent with a letter to parents this week via groupcall.  This consent is opt out so it assumes that, unless the form is returned, you are happy for your child to have contact with Bonnie.