How helpers at a Sussex village school are giving children amazing lessons in life

A headteacher at a village primary school has got a special helper to keep pupils on their best behaviour.

And the children don’t mind a bit - because the helper is a dog called Stanley.

In fact Stanley is one of three ‘school dogs’ at St Peter’s CofE school in Henfield.

His colleagues are black Lab Max and rescue dog Dennis whose prime role is to ‘listen’ as young pupils read to them.

School dog Stanley

Stanley, a seven-year-old sprockerpoo, belongs to headteacher Denise Maurice. “He is very gentle and loves children.” she said.

“He doesn’t come to school every day but when he does he is very popular with the pupils and staff.”

His role varies – “Sometimes he will go out into the playground and he has helped children who have been anxious about coming into school,

“He also helps children to manage their behaviour,” said Denise.

School dog Dennis

“Parents say what a help he has been.”

Dennis is a registered PAT - Pets As Therapy - dog and belongs to school parent Michelle Bonwick.

He was the school’s first dog and has been helping out for the past two years.

Max, meanwhile, belongs to one of the school’s teaching assistants whose mum brings him into school to ‘read’ with the children.

School dog Max

Denise first decided to introduce ‘school dogs’ at St Peter’s because of evidence of dogs’ positive impact on children’s academic, emotional and social development.

Dennis and Max go into school once a week. “They work with identified children who need extra practice or a confidence boost,” said Denise.

“The children sit with the owner and dog – they think that they are reading to the dog so it takes away some of their inhibitions.”

She said both children and adults benefited immensely, educationally and emotionally.

The dogs also help to increase pupils’ understanding of responsibility and develop empathy and nurturing skills, she said.

lDo you think your dog has what it takes to become a canine teacher?

This is the job description: “Improve academic achievement; boost literacy skills; provide support for calming behaviours and positive attachments; Increase social skills and self-esteem; Increase confidence; Teach responsibility and respect to all life; Improve attendance for identified pupils; Motivate children; Support wellbeing for staff.”

And if you think your dog is clever enough to join St Peter’s he/she should also be able to: Support wellbeing for children by providing companionship, a listening ear and quality nurture time; Support positive attendance by providing motivation for identified children; Give children the opportunituy to learn essential skills of responsibility and caring for others; Promote high standards of reading; Support high standards of behaviour; Provide a purposeful context for children’s learning, and provide support for staff wellbeing.

And the pay? There isn’t any. But your pet will get school holidays.