Pebbles, therapy dog at Gusford Primary School in Ipswich, is playing a vital role in supporting pupils throughout the unprecedented lockdown which saw schools across the nation shutting down due to the ongoing pandemic.
The French bulldog, who recently celebrated her first birthday, had been visiting Gusford Primary School since she was eight weeks old and has recently been assessed as a therapy dog with Canine Concern. She has her own email address, and pupils are encouraged to keep in touch by sending her examples of their home learning.
Regular updates from Pebbles are also available on social media, helping the children through these challenging, confusing, and often upsetting times.
Today I’ve been enjoying the sunshine in the garden & supervising some art work 🖍 #chalkyourwalk #Chalk4Joy #chalk #StayHomeSaveLives #NHS #StayAtHomeAndStaySafe #StaySafeStayHome #StayAtHome pic.twitter.com/xFnLWnq7oZ
— Pebbles the Gusford School Dog (@PebblesGusford) April 5, 2020
Claire Claydon, Headteacher at Gusford Primary School, who is looking after Pebbles at her family home, said, “Pebbles is fantastic and adored by our pupils, parents and staff alike. She has been amazing during the changes and is helping children at home to still feel connected to our school community and to express their emotions about adjusting to learning from home, new routines and not being able to see their friends.
“Pebbles really helps our pupils to name and process their emotions and makes them feel listened too and valued.”
Pebbles’ role as a therapy dog is part of the school’s work with SWERL (Supporting Wellbeing, Emotional Resilience & Learning), which is a project led by University College London and the Ipswich Opportunity Area. During a regular school day, Pebbles would help to calm children in distress, as well as support pupils with additional needs and complex and challenging behaviour.
One parent said, “Pebbles is so gorgeous she has been amazing with my child, who struggles so much with school, and calms him down.”
Canine Concern is also partnered with the Read 2 Dogs Kennel Club programme, so Pebbles listens to pupils read out loud, which helps improve their confidence and reading skills.
Mrs Claydon added, “Now that Pebbles is a registered Cares dog with Canine Concern, when we can return to school, I am keen to make links with local care homes that are within walking distance of the school. I’d like to take groups of pupils and Pebbles out to visit these places as it would be a fantastic opportunity for our children to practice their conversational skills and meet older members of their local community.”
Stephen Chamberlain, CEO of the Active Learning Trust, said, “This is a very testing period for all of us but I have been overwhelmed by the positive, focused manner our schools have approached the change to home-schooling.
“I know Pebbles plays a massive role within the Gusford Primary School community and by giving her this strong online presence for pupils to connect, it plays a significant role with maintaining pupils’ happiness and wellbeing. I expect her social media follower numbers to continue to rise!”