Oscar-winning Sheffield school success

Longley Primary School pupils, back row, Natasha Holland (left), aged eight, and Ethan Bullas, aged ten, front, from left, Rebecca Taylor, aged nine, Martine Pokutova, aged ten, and Jason Taylor, aged six, are pictured with Oscar the dog.

Published on Sunday 29 April 2012 09:37

Say hello to Oscar – the four-legged friend who’s become the most popular member of staff at Sheffield’s Longley Primary.

The West Highland Terrier is still a bit of a new boy, having started his duties as a young pup just last September.

But in the few months since he’s become an essential part of school life, loved and fussed over by all the children.

And in the next few weeks Oscar will be taking on some new duties – helping the pupils with their reading!

The post of official school dog was the brainchild of learning mentor Jane Brailsford, who soon gained the backing of headteacher Mo Andrews.

“We are both animal lovers and we knew the benefits a dog can bring to family life,” she said. “So we wondered if those benefits could be transferred into the life of a school.”

After running the idea by governors and the council, and going through legal hoops of risk assessments and health and safety rules, Jane took in Oscar as a puppy just over a year ago.

“From the beginning Oscar had the most amazing effect,” Jane said.

“The pupils really responded to him. He made friends with children who were withdrawn or who had communication problems, and with those who sometimes struggle with their emotions or behaviour. Children who are upset or sad also like to talk to Oscar – he has a calming effect on them. And since then he’s become part of daily school life.”

The children help feed and water Oscar, and a highlight of the day is the school’s Walking Club, which sees pupils taking it in turns to take their pal for exercise around the neighbouring streets.

Jane added: “We’ve been researching how if children read to dogs, it can improve their literacy skills and confidence, so that is something we are starting this term.”