When staff and students arrived back at North Leamington School after the summer break, they were thrilled to be introduced to a new member of staff joining the team.
North Leamington School has become the latest school in the area to introduce a therapy dog to their staff and pupils.
Lulu, is a five-month-old Cockapoo who has begun working at the school helping both students and staff improve their overall wellbeing.
She is in training over the next eight months to become accredited as a therapy dog where she will continue to help and support many of the students whilst at school at NLS.
The school asked Lulu and her main handler a series of questions to explain her role:
How did the school make the decision to get a Therapy Dog?
Original discussions started about three years ago where the benefits were discussed in school. A great deal of research was undertaken into understanding the benefits, the responsibilities and which type of dog would be suitable.
There have been numerous research projects worldwide which evidence the benefits of therapy dogs in school which include;
~ Cognitive; stimulates memory and problem-solving
~ Social; provides a mutual topic of conversation, encourages responsibility, wellbeing and interaction with others
~ Emotional; Raises levels of well-being (already evident throughout our school for pupils and staff), reduces anxiety, teaches compassion and respect for living things
~ Physical; Reduces blood pressure, assists with motivation and pain management
~Reading; A dog will listen to a young person read to them without fear of judgement, which helps to build confidence
How did we decide on a Cockapoo?
We saw one in action at another school and so began to research further.
Cockapoos are known for being very intelligent dogs and responding well to training.
They have a very friendly nature and are great sociable dogs, all very important characteristics required for a therapy dog within a large busy school.
In addition to this, we wanted to make sure that the students health and well being weren’t compromised whilst in school and so a cockapoo was chosen specifically because this breed are at minimal risk of causing allergic reactions in people. We have several members of staff who have allergies to dogs and have spent time with Lulu and have had no adverse reactions.
Lulu is subjected to a rigorous cleanliness and grooming regime
What is her journey to become an accredited Therapy Dog?
Lulu is undergoing a rigorous training program with her handler over the next four to five months. When it is felt she is ready she will undergo a workplace assessment which will check for example how she responds to her handler, students and staff. She will also be assessed with her training at home. We hope that after this, she will be given her formal accreditation.
How has Lulu settled in and what are our plans for her?
Lulu is an absolute delight to have in the school and has settled really well amongst the staff and students who all look out for her on a daily basis.
We hope that she will become a member of the NLS family bringing people together, encouraging our happy, calm and respectful environment and is there to support all staff and students, with her main role being to:
~ Build confidence and self esteem.
~Improve the mental health and wellbeing of students and staff.
~ Assist our young students with any special educational needs.
~ Work alongside our counselling services as many students are finding it easier to relate to and talk to a dog as opposed to a person.
~ Help children with autism relate to the world.
~ Play a positive role in the rewards and recognition program at NLS.
~ Help reduce stress and enhance cognitive ability during exams.
~ Encourage student responsibility, by learning to be responsible and respectful towards another living creature. Students are already mindful of littering, etc.
~ Help children with their reading.
~ Help many students overcome their fear of dogs
How are we looking after Lulu’s welfare while in school?
Lulu is always with her handler and has her own space in the Student Support Office where she has access to her bed, toys, food and water.
She receives regular exercise throughout the day as well as walking about the school to keep her fit and active.
At home Lulu is cared for by her handler in a loving environment, where she visits the vets regularly for her inoculations and check-ups.
We are very excited about the opportunities that Lulu will bring to the school and are pleased with how well our school community has embraced the initiative.
You can follow Lulu’s journey on Instagram @lulunorthleam