Mentor dogs Monty & Orla spread smiles at The Halifax Academy
Students at The Halifax Academy are enjoying the expertise of two new furry members of staff. The school has employed two mentor dogs; Monty works in the Secondary building and his sister Orla works in the Primary Phase.
After a difficult 18 months for everyone, with the pressures and uncertainties of Covid-19, the two young Cockapoos are bringing smiles to the faces of students and staff by offering cuddles and lending a furry ear. Monty enjoys donning his work coat and completing his daily outdoor break duties, where he is warmly received by the students – some of whom have named him “The Happiness Dog”.
Due to their gentle and sociable temperaments, Cockapoos make ideal dog mentors, having a calming and positive effect on the individuals they work with.
The wellbeing of students and staff is the overriding priority at The Halifax Academy and the school strives to continually improve the way it supports students and families. To enhance that care and support, the decision was made to recruit the two new team members, due to the well-documented benefits of school mentor and therapy dogs. Beloved pets of Ms Lanovy and Ms Keasey, the puppies completed the bronze stage of The Dog Mentor training programme earlier this year with trainer Jenny Duckworth and so began their careers at the academy.
The benefits of having dog mentors in school are numerous. A study by the University of Cumbria in 2019 found that ‘full-time school-based dogs can contribute significantly to a positive environment as well as have a positive impact on children and young people’s social and emotional development, behaviour and enthusiasm towards academia’.
Children gain a sense of calm and wellbeing from the companionship and time spent with the dogs at school, developing nurturing and social skills, empathy and a sense of responsibility, as well as improving behaviour and attendance. Dogs have also been shown to support and encourage struggling young readers; children embarrassed and reluctant to read to their peers are more comfortable reading to dogs, who are non-judgemental and will sit and listen patiently, thereby reducing anxiety for the child and enabling confidence and reading skills to flourish.
Ms Lanovy said ‘’Having Monty and Orla has certainly raised the happiness levels in school. The students look forward to seeing Monty’s wagging tail on duty every morning and we have a steady flow of staff members visiting him throughout the day for a quick cuddle and an energy boost – his enthusiasm and zest for life are infectious! His warmth and sweet nature have definitely lifted spirits and even dried a tear or two!’’
When fully qualified, Monty and Orla will work with students in regular 1:1 sessions, predominantly with more vulnerable students, who respond particularly well to their friendly and affectionate natures.