Proud to be part of the
In partnership with
Proud to be part of the
In partnership with

Meet Nova, our School Dog

Nova is a Cockapoo who lives with Mrs Bird and will come to Sebright twice a week to be a school dog.

Research has shown many benefits to therapy and reading dogs in school settings. Sebright has introduced the access to a dog promoting emotional well-being, curiosity and engagement as an additional provision for pupils with high additional needs at school.

Although there is a risk in bringing a dog into a school environment, this can be mitigated against with a robust risk assessment to ensure the safety of all pupils, parents, staff and visitors.

Nova's Highlights

Guidance and benefits of having pets and animals in school

Chapter 8: Pets and Animal Contact - GOV.UK - Updated March 2021 

Pets and other animals in school can enhance the learning environment. However, contact with animals can pose a risk of infection including gastro-intestinal infection, fungal infections and parasites. Some people, such as pregnant women and those with a weakened immune system, are at greater risk of developing a severe infection. However, sensible measures can be taken to reduce the risk of infection to the children and to staff.  Only mature and toilet trained pets should be considered and the Headteacher should ensure that a knowledgeable person is responsible for the animal. There should be a written agreement within the school detailing:

  • The types of animals allowed in the school
  • How to manage them and permitted behaviour whilst on the premises
  • Where they can go and where they cannot go when in the school
  • Any insurance liability of owners and handlers 

Animals should always be supervised when in contact with the children and those handling animals advised to wash their hands immediately afterwards. Animals should have recommended treatments and immunisations, be regularly groomed (including claws trimmed) and checked for signs of infection. Bedding should be laundered regularly.  Feeding areas should be kept clean and their food stored away from human food. Food not consumed in 20 minutes should be taken away or covered to prevent attracting pests.

The Benefits of a Dog in School

School dogs have been proven to help develop Pupils’ reading skills, improve behaviour, attendance and academic confidence, as well as increasing student understanding of responsibility and in the development of empathy and nurturing skills.  At Sebright, we hope that a school dog will be a beneficial addition to our therapeutic offer, in addition to the interventions we already offer

Animal assisted interventions (also known as AAI’s) can:

  • Teach empathy and appropriate interpersonal skills;
  • Help individuals develop social skills;
  • Be soothing;
  • Improve a child’s ability to pick up on social cues which are imperative to human relationships;
  • Therapy dogs have been shown to support emotional regulation through the positive impact on the autonomic nervous system
  • Show that children working with therapy dogs have experienced increased improved motivation for learning, resulting in improved outcomes;
  • Therapy dogs are being used to support children with their social and emotional learning needs, which can also aid literacy development.

Research into the effects of therapy dogs in schools is showing a range of benefits including:

  • Increase in school attendance;
  • Improved confidence;
  • Decreased pupil anxiety resulting in improvements in learning, such as increases in reading and writing levels;
  • Improved motivation to learn;
  • Enhanced relationships with peers and teachers due to experiencing trust and unconditional positive interactions with a therapy dog;
  • Helping children learn how to express their feelings and enter into more trusting relationships.
  •  Increase social skills and self-esteem
  • Teach responsibility and respect to all life

Mental Health and Wellbeing Benefits

Some mental health challenges and psychiatric disorders are known to respond well to therapy dogs.  Patients diagnosed with a range of issues, such as depression, bi-polar disorder, Autism, ADHD, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and Alzheimer's disease, benefit from their interaction with therapy dogs and other companion animals.

Sometimes, emotional challenges are the result of physical health problems, and therapy dogs can help with those too. Research suggests that patients who are recovering from difficult surgery or a bad accident who participate in animal-assisted therapy may feel less pain.  Studies have shown that such interactions can increase the mood-boosting hormone oxytocin and decrease the stress hormone cortisol.

Evidence shows that just by being near a dog when stressed can reduce anxiety. In a survey, 92% of Pupils said they felt more relaxed during teaching and learning time when there was a dog in the classroom. When children are more relaxed and less stressed, they’re going to learn more.

Social Development

Dogs in school offer an opportunity for improving social development. They are especially useful for teaching pupils social skills and responsibility. Schools are using dogs to help older pupils build self-esteem; learn about positive and negative reinforcement, responsibility, and boundaries. Pupils can use dogs to help communicate, teach kindness, and empower Pupils. With a dog in school, pupils have the opportunity to learn how to care for the dog.  This includes walking and grooming.  Research reports that involving pupils in the daily care of a classroom dog is a positive experience, promoting their own daily care. The pupils also learn about responsibility, caring, and sharing when helping each other take care of a dog at school. 

Pastoral Care

Therapy Dogs can work with pupils on a one-one basis and will especially help those pupils who have been bullied, abused, going through upsetting/difficult times or even scared/phobic of dogs. The dog will bring much joy and help to all the pupils they meet and are happy to provide plenty of hugs to the pupils they are spending time with. Pupils who struggle with social interaction can find a reassuring friend in a dog.