Bede’s Prep pupils are very lucky to have gained a new member of the school family: a four-and-a-half year old certified educational assistance dog, Lottie. Unsurprisingly, Lottie the Labrador has already proved very popular with pupils and staff alike, and we know that she will make a wonderful addition to our pastoral care team.
Lottie was certified as a school assistance dog in May 2019, following 3 years of training with specialist dog training charity, Dogs Helping Kids. Lottie is one of only a handful of dogs in the UK trained to this high level, and we are delighted to have her with us in school to help with the children’s learning, welfare and animal behaviour awareness.
Mrs Sarah Hammond, Bede’s Prep’s new Welfare Officer, explains more about Lottie’s role, “Lottie is very experienced in working with children and in schools. Meetings with Lottie currently have to be carefully managed owing to Covid-safe guidelines, but she is already making a big difference.”
Lottie’s key role will be to provide a source of additional emotional support for our pupils. “Lottie offers one-to-one therapy sessions for children who may be going through a particularly stressful or difficult time, or for those who may struggle with social interaction,” Mrs Hammond explains. “Lottie provides a calm, supportive and reassuring friend and a bit of extra support for those who need it.”
Lottie will also help to encourage our pupils’ academic progress. “Lottie is trained as a reading canine, and her one-to-one sessions can have a huge impact on children’s confidence in reading,” Mrs Hammond explains. “Lottie has been trained to rest her head on the pupil’s lap while they read and press a buzzer to signify the end of their session. Lottie also reads cues on flash cards, such as ‘sit’ and ‘down’, presented to her by the pupil, giving them confidence in their own reading as they realise that Lottie is learning the skill as well.”
When restrictions ease, Mrs Hammond hopes to take Lottie into classrooms to encourage extra effort and reward good learning. “When a group of pupils have produced a play or practiced their French pronunciation, Lottie will be able to visit the class and they can show her the results of their hard work.
“I also hope to take Lottie to assemblies in person when we can. We have started talking through dog safety and body language in our virtual assemblies, and this knowledge of animal care and awareness is something that we will continue to build on with all pupils on an ongoing basis.”
Alongside the addition of Lottie, Mrs Hammond has some big plans for expanding the welfare provision at the School. “Bede’s Prep is a really lovely school,” she says. “It is warm, friendly and child centred, and everyone has been so kind and welcoming. My aim within my role as Welfare Officer is to build on the strong holistic offer that is already there, and to make the School an even happier and more supportive place than it already is.
“I’m very much looking forward to building on our welfare offer with a range of proactive and preventative initiatives. This year has been incredibly difficult for many people, and it’s even more important now to build confidence and self-esteem, encourage a culture of talking about our mental health and develop a growth mindset across the school community. There is already a fantastic foundation of all of this within the School, as demonstrated by the admirable way in which teachers, children and parents took on the challenges of online - then blended - learning during the pandemic. I’m looking forward to building on this foundation to ensure that all children have the opportunity to flourish, both academically and emotionally.”
We are very fortunate to welcome Sarah and Lottie to the Bede’s Prep family!