Pet Therapy is widely accepted as a powerful aid to communication and motivation. Research has shown that companion dogs can improve the well-being of children reducing their anxiety levels by making the school environment happier and a more enjoyable place to be.
Woodlands Academy in Spilsby is a specialist secondary school for SEMH pupils (Social, Emotional, Mental Health). SEMH is a unique sector of education and requires dedicated, specialist support.
C.I.T.’s Director of Safeguarding & Well-Being, Ann White, has worked for the Trust since its fruition in 2014. Prior to that, Ann had worked at a SEND school in Grantham since 1998. Following her 30-year career in education, Ann is retiring at the end of this academic year and feels passionately about giving something special back before she leaves.
Ann has been working from the Woodlands Academy site for the last few months, and having a new 6 month old Labrador puppy at the time, it was agreed that Layla could accompany Ann into school. It quickly became apparent that Layla was an asset to the school in more ways than one.
Ann said: “Layla has had a very positive and calming effect on pupils at the school. She helps them to engage when they are anxious, or their behaviour has escalated to a point they are struggling to self-regulate. This has had a significant impact on pupil wellbeing. I feel very strongly that Woodlands Academy will benefit hugely from having a Therapy Dog of their own.”
When Ann retires this summer, Layla will obviously go with her, but Ann is worried about the effect on the pupils when this happens so she has embarked on a fundraising plan so that the school can purchase a dog of their own.
Ann is intending to take on a huge challenge in the Lake District next month. Taking place from Friday 13th through to Monday 16th May, beginning in the village of Grasmere in Cumbria, Ann will complete a series of tasks including open water swimming at 6am each morning, a series of running challenges every day, and climbing two mountains! All to help Woodlands Academy raise funds for their own Therapy Dog. The pupils are super excited to follow Ann’s progress and they are also busy organising some fundraising of their own.
Headteacher, Carl Smith, said: “Layla has not only had a positive influence on pupils and staff alike, but also parents visiting the school. It has been wonderful for the children to have Layla in school these past few months and I agree with Ann that having our own school dog could reap benefits for the pupils.
I can’t thank Ann enough for embarking on this big challenge and wish her all the support for the main event in May. Everyone at the school is behind her.”
The school are now actively looking for a Labrador puppy ready for the end of July when the school closes. This will allow time for the 6 week Therapy Dog Training.
If you would like to support Ann on her momentous challenge, you can donate here: https://www.kindlink.com/fundraising/community-inclusive-trust-/ann-walks-runs-climbs-therapy-fundraiser