COUNTY NEWS: Sussex school gets its own dog

There is a new addition to the team at a school in Sussex which is giving students some paws for thought.

Monday, 5th December 2016, 4:18 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 6:19 pm
Max Older and Anastasia Clark, both 15, with Buddy the Worthing High School dog

With only 11 days on the job, Buddy the border collie is already a firm favourite with pupils at Worthing High School, and has been helping students with social difficulties to relax and integrate into the school.

Buddy, three, comes into school four days a week and sits in on the staff morning briefing and inclusion classes taught by assistant headteacher Lou Gatford.

These classes include emotional literacy, which teaches children how to recognise facial expressions and people’s reactions.

Max Older and Anastasia Clark, both 15, with Buddy the Worthing High School dog

Mrs Gatford said Buddy has been a calming influence on both students and staff.

“He is supporting the emotional wellbeing and health of students, but also staff. He does a lot of one-to-one relaxation work with students, where they will just stroke him and give him love and cuddles which releases chemicals that improves your mood.

“He is so loved. If we went down the corridor during lesson changes, we’d bring the school to a standstill.”

Mrs Gatford recently adopted Buddy, three, from Clymping Dog Sanctuary in Ford, where he had been left by a family. Buddy now lives with Mrs Gatford and her husband, who looks after the dog on his day off in the week.

Max Older, 15, helped to get Buddy at the school after speaking to headteacher Carolyn Dickinson.

He has also come in early before school to look after the dog. “It has been really useful getting to know Buddy. He is helpful to relax and it’s easy to make friends with a dog.”

Anastasia Clark, 15, has also benefitted from having Buddy around.

She said: “It’s really cool, I really like having him here. He is really calm, which helps you relax if you’re feeling upset.”

Buddy is also fostering an online presence with an Instagram account that was set up by the school and which currently has more than 70 followers.

Mrs Gatford came up with the idea of getting Buddy after working at a school for disabled pupils in Nottinghamshire which had a farm.

She said: “For students with social difficulties, he is a really good social buffer. They can talk to him instead and we can listen to what they are saying. It isn’t so intense; the non-judgemental side of animals is a real positive.”

And not only is he hard-working, but he is also well-trained in the toilet department. She said: “I thought there might be a nervous wee, but there hasn’t been any. He’s a lucky find.”

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