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Rupert is top of the pups with staff and children
Rupert the puppy is taking the lead after becoming the first pooch in the country to be employed by a school.
The 16-week-old Sealyham Lakeland terrier cross Jack Russell has been bought by Hardenhuish School in Chippenham to help troubled pupils.
Many schools, such as The Corsham School, have visiting dogs to aid lessons but Hardenhuish believes it is the first to actually own one.
Rupert has only been in his post a short while and already he is helping youngsters when they are struggling to cope.
His appointment was the idea of special educational needs co-ordinator Debbie Bennett.
She said: “This is something that happens much more often in America, and I originally looked into it to research the impact having a dog has on children with autism.
“But the impact Rupert has had is absolutely huge. He means such a lot to so many of the pupils here.
“You might have a boy from Year 10 who is struggling with anger issues and aggression, and a child from Year 7 who is vulnerable and having trouble fitting in.
“If you get them in the same room with Rupert, you’d see both of them chatting and relaxing. It really does cut across all barriers.”
Mrs Bennett has already had lots of offers to help with Rupert.
She said: “Before school, at lunchtimes, at break, I always have people knocking on my door and asking to take him for a walk.
“It has been just wonderful having him here. He’s so popular with the children, and he adores them.”
Rupert has had a risk assessment, full insurance and a complete veterinary check.
An adult always needs to be with him, hand cleaner always has to be used after children have stroked him, he is not to be fed any treats or teased with toys, and he must be kept on a lead at all times.
The pup was earmarked by Mrs Bennett, who looks after him out of school hours, because of his playful, happy nature.
“I just melted when I saw him,” she said. “He’s a very loving boy, and popular here.
“We’ve even had some teachers coming in for a quick cuddle.
"The effect he has had here has been unbelievable – people are incredibly positive about having him here.”
Headteacher Jan Hatherell agrees and recalled the moment Rupert’s appointment was suggested.
“Mrs Bennett said to me ‘You’ll never go for this, but I want to give you all the information about having a dog here’,” said Mrs Hatherell.
“But I looked at the information she presented me with and ended up thinking ‘Why not?’.
“We are the first school I know of to do something like this, and it has been a wonderful thing to do. Within the first week, Rupert had already worked his magic.
“We had a student going through a very tough time at home, and after sitting down with him for a little while she began to start talking about everything she had gone through.
“As soon as you begin to talk, you can start to slowly move on from bad things, and that’s one of the reasons Rupert is so valuable to us.
“He’s been with us for just seven weeks, and already he has helped the young people here.”
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