Simba – St Mark’s school dog

At St Mark’s we’re very keen to support the emotional and social development of our children.

We’ve teamed up with The Dog Mentor, and shortly after November half-term, we’ll slowly be introducing Simba to St Mark’s, to be our very own school dog. Simba is a cocker spaniel, and will be 11 weeks old when he joins St Mark’s.

Through proper training and support, the dog mentor programme addresses and helps children with:

  • Anxiety Reduction
  • Attachment & Relationship building
  • Attention & Behavioural difficulties
  • Communication & Social anxieties
  • De-sensitisation
  • Problem Solving
  • Social interaction and relationships
  • Stress Coping Strategies

About The Dog Mentor

The Dog Mentor Programme was founded in November 2014 by Jenny Duckworth. Based in Gravesham and Medway the Dog Mentor programme uses Animal Assisted Activities to help teach and engage children with educational needs such as self-esteem, behaviour, peer relationships and better engagement skills.

The Dog Mentor Programme has built upon the benefits of the human-animal bond by providing children positive experiences with dogs that can help them educationally, developmentally, emotionally and socially.

Over the past 5 years, The Dog Mentor programme in local Primary and Secondary schools has proven to have significant impact on many children’s lives. These positive impacts follow the premise that improving communication within schools will improve behaviour. This, in turn will provide an improved outcome for staff, parents and more importantly pupils.

Questions and Answers

What if my child is scared of dogs?

We would be very careful to avoid any negative impacts on children, and we will work closely with parents and children to provide a safe and worry free environment. Please do let us know if you feel your child would be concerned with a school dog. Equally, one of the benefits of having a dog in school is being able to support children who may be fearful, and helping them to see that dogs can be friendly – and knowing how to respond around dogs.

What if my child is allergic to dogs?

We would always want to work with parents to ensure that children are safe, whatever their needs. Please do let us know if your child might have allergies.

Is the dog insured?

Yes; it is covered under school and owner insurance. A full risk assessment will also be in place, and reviewed regularly.

What about corona virus?

If any adults or children are to handle the dog, they must wash their hands before and afterwards.

What happens if the dog bites?

The staff who will handle Simba will be trained to know how he is feeling and how to manage him.

Simba will also be trained to work in our school environment.

Will Simba have injections etc?

Yes; as part of the agreement and risk assessment for Simba, he must have his injections as required.

What about toileting?!

Simba will be trained not to go on the school field or playground. He will have an area at the front of the school to ‘go’, and this will be signposted so it is clear it is ‘Simba’s area’. Any mess will always be cleaned up fully. Should there be accidents within school, this will always be thoroughly cleaned. A special bin for bags will be in place.

What about the welfare of the dog?

This is paramount! We will always ensure that Simba is happy and safe – as we do with our pupils! – and would take action if we felt there were concerns around this. Whilst moving around on site, and for the meantime with any children, he will be on a lead (chest harness) in order to maintain law and order, and safety of course.

Where will Simba live, and who will he be with?

Simba is Mr Applegate’s family dog. He will live in Mr Applegate’s office when he isn’t working during the day; he’ll go home during the evenings. During the school day, he will be working in different areas of the school including The Bridge, The Ark pastoral room, on the playground and in classrooms – please note this will only happen when it is considered safe to do so for Simba, the adults and the children. Several members of staff will also receive training about how to safely manage Simba whilst he is on the school site. If Simba is unwell, he would not attend school.

What would Simba do?

Our aim is for all children to have the opportunity to have quality time with the dog and learn how to care for him. He will also be available to calm unsettled children and walk around the school on a lead with the a member of staff at appropriate times of the day so that he isn’t a distraction to the children. Simba will need to take walks, and we would involve in the children in this when appropriate. Simba will also help in the curriculum e.g. learning about keeping others safe, responsibility, writing instructions about caring for others etc. We would also be keen for Simba to listen to children read.

I thought dogs aren’t allowed on site?

This is correct. However, special exception has been given for Simba because he will be a school dog, and a policy and risk assessment is in place. Governors are in agreement.

Where did the name Simba come from?

Amazingly, it was the choice of the breeder! As our school lion is our logo; it was a natural name to keep.

What about Covid-19?

As always, hand washing is essential. If there were to be any handling of the dog, washing hands before and after would be required. We would also be mindful of how we move Simba around the school (being outside also reduces risks). Government advice on pets is here.

What about the costs?

The school is using money from a grant to support children’s wellbeing to pay for some costs (e.g. training). The owner will be bearing the initial purchase, setup and day-to-day costs.

Got a question?