A Cockapoo puppy who ‘works’ in a secondary school has helped children struggling with anxiety following lockdown.
Willow, aged 15 weeks, attends Glenrothes High School in Fife, from Monday to Friday, and in the two weeks she has been there the school has seen attendance improve.
The pup stays in a pen in the school’s ‘nurture room’, where children can visit her.
She has her own uniform – a bandana with the school logo – and it is hoped she will be a motivation for children who play truant to up their attendance.
Other children hoped to benefit are those suffering bereavement or trauma, or who have a chaotic home life.
Owner Lynne Watters, 32, a nurture and support teacher at the school has been wowed by the success so far.
Lynne said: “We had dogs in before and the kids had really benefitted.
“Some kids might not have support at home or it could be quite chaotic.
“Other kids have behavioural issues and aren’t settling in mainstream classes, so need a smaller space to work in.
“Some are also anxious about being back in school after lockdown, it’s a real mix.
“She’s been a big incentive for the kids who lack motivation to come in.
“Since Willow’s been here they’ve been in every day.
“If they’ve had a bad night at home or fallen out with someone it can take a while to engage, but now the puppy’s there she sets them up better for the day.
“I think a lot of the time she’s a good distraction.
“I think everybody’s responded really well to her and the kids are helping take care of her with fresh water and some training.
“We thought she might take a while to settle in or she’d be overwhelmed, but she’s taken it all on board and been great.”
Lynne’s colleague Sandra Smith, also a nurture and support teacher, believes Willow offers children attention which is often lacking at home.
And when Willow is old enough she could be taken to visit other schools in the area.
Sandra said: “One boy said ‘she gives me a reason to come to school’.
“His attendance was so poor, but now he and some others have been 100%.
“The kids we’ve got need that bit of nurture and attention.
“It’s lovely to see their faces when they see her.
“Even staff have been coming down to see her, so she’s helping them as well.
“The positives we’ve got from it have been amazing.
“It’s great for their wellbeing and it’s very relaxing.
“They won’t have Willow forever but they realise coming into school’s not that bad.”