Windmill Hill Academy have been praising the benefits of having their “School Dog” Bertie at the academy to support pupils.

Bertie joined the Windmill Hill Academy Team in September 2021. He belongs to Mrs Bassett, Head of School, who collected him on the first day of the summer holidays in July 2021 which allowed her to settle him into school routines and get used to school before the new school year started.

Bertie is now almost two years old. He comes into school most days and is based in Mrs Bassett’s office.

Bertie loves seeing the children, parents and staff and his daily strokes and cuddles. He enjoys his meet and greets in the playground in the morning; saying goodbye to the children at the end of the day; ’Bertie time’ on a Friday as a reward for being a ’Star of the Week’; listening to children read; seeing children on an individual and small group basis and generally being in school!

Lots of planning, research, risk assessments and training have all taken place. Bertie is a Labrador Retriever, which is a pedigree breed specially chosen because they are renowned for being loving dogs that are excellent with children.

A spokesperson for the school explained some of the benefits they have found having a school dog, they said: “Children can benefit educationally and emotionally, increase their understanding of responsibility and develop empathy and nurturing skills through contact with a dog. In addition to these benefits, children take great enjoyment from interaction with a dog and having a dog in school can encourage reluctant children to come to school.

“Although Bertie is still young, he is gentle and loving, and offers children opportunities to improve their social development skills, unconditional acceptance and the chance to do something really well. For some children, a dog will be a special friend, helping them to build self-esteem, relax and have fun. For others, time spent with a dog will be a reward for excellent effort with a difficult challenge.”