The Kennel Club, the UK’s largest organisation dedicated to the health and welfare of dogs, agrees with the Education Secretary’s remarks that dogs can have a hugely positive impact in schools, enhancing well-being, nurturing confidence and encouraging children to express themselves, and urges schools to take part in its Bark & Read programme to reap these benefits.
Bark & Read, an alliance of the nation's largest therapy dog charities, improves pupils’ literacy skills and confidence through encouraging them to read to specially-trained dogs. It is backed by the Kennel Club Educational Trust, and costs schools nothing to take part.
While facilitating dogs in schools and enabling them to benefit pupils, the programme ensures this is done in a safe and responsible way, with the well-being of the dogs as well as the students considered at all times, and lays out guidelines on this practice.
As such, the Kennel Club is concerned about Anthony Seldon’s call last week for every school to have a well-being dog as this could encourage school staff to use their own dogs in the classroom, or to acquire a dog “for the school”, which we would strongly advise against. Ad hoc use of unqualified and poorly supervised pet dogs in schools, with no oversight or concern for the dog's well-being, would not provide the range of benefits the Education Secretary describes. Spending long days in schools, with no guidelines or a dedicated handler to supervise practice as set out in our own programme, can also be detrimental to the dog’s well-being.
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary said: “Dogs don’t judge, they don’t laugh or correct if a child makes a mistake. In short dogs are simply great listeners, which make all the difference for children who are struggling.
“Bark & Read is a volunteer programme which can facilitate this and help schools to benefit from the amazing support our four-legged friends can give. We would encourage any school, teacher or volunteer who is interested in facilitating dogs in schools to take a look at the Bark & Read Standards of Practice, which includes detailed guidance on what is required and how the programme works to benefit schools and pupils, with the welfare of the dog put first.”