Therapy dog joins team at Newcastle school to boost students' wellbeing

Heidi is a five-year-old Maltichon and is taken to the Senior School at Dame Allan’s once a week. Credit: Dame Allan's Schools

A therapy dog has joined the team at a school in Newcastle, to boost students wellbeing and help them avoid pre-exam jitters.Heidi, a five-year-old Maltichon, is taken to the Senior School at Dame Allan’s once a week and is already having a positive impact on pupils.

Learning support teacher and Heidi’s owner, Kelly Lowery, said having a dog in a school is shown to help improve behaviour, attendance and academic confidence among pupils, while lowering levels of anxiety, stabilising intense emotions and enhancing relationships. It also teaches pupils about responsibility, and develops key skills in empathy and nurturing.

“Children take great enjoyment from interacting with Heidi; she is such a calming influence and helps create a friendly, happy and homely environment within The Snug,” she said.

Heidi has already supported a number of year 11 students who are taking their mock GCSE exams.

Owner Kelly Lowery with Heidi the therapy dog Credit: Dame Allan's Schools

Kelly added: “Students can feel incredibly anxious at exam time, particularly with the uncertainty created by the Covid pandemic, and Heidi has been a welcome distraction and comfort to some who have felt overwhelmed.

“The feedback from parents has been hugely positive, they have already noticed the effect Heidi is having on their children just by being in the room.”

Heidi is undergoing continuous training, and has already completed 12 weeks on The Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme, the largest dog training programme in the UK. Due to the fact she sheds very little hair, Heidi is hypoallergenic and she is affectionate, smart and sociable.

Will Scott, Principal of Dame Allan’s Schools, said: “There is no doubt that therapy dogs can bring huge benefits to both pupils and staff, and Heidi is already an invaluable member of The Snug team.

“Dame Allan’s has long recognised the importance of pastoral care, and introducing a therapy dog further expands the full range of support we offer our pupils as they journey through school life.”