Montgomery Academy introduces pooches to help pupils read confidently

Three fluffy additions to a Bispham secondary school have been making their way into the library in a bid to help pupils build confidence with literacy.

Thursday, 1st July 2021, 3:45 pm

Pupils at Montgomery Academy in All Hallows Road have new canine companions to help them with their reading, as studies continue to reveal the benefits of therapy dogs in schools.

A study revealed one of the many benefits of therapy dogs was increased reading and language skills among pupils, so Bingley the French Bulldog, two, Bruce the Cavapoo, one and Dudley the Pug, four, are trained at the school every week to help with lowering anxiety and bringing confidence to children's reading.

Bruce's owner Estelle Bellamy works among Fylde Coast Academy Trust schools including Montgomery, and Dudley and Bingley's owner Liane Coultas is the school's librarian.

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Evie Fratczak-Coyne, 12, reads a book wearing her reading achievement rosettes with Bruce. Picture: Daniel Martino/JPI Media
Evie Fratczak-Coyne, 12, reads a book wearing her reading achievement rosettes with Bruce. Picture: Daniel Martino/JPI Media

Natasha Davies from St Michael's firm KRR Training, who trains the dogs in the school library, said: "The dogs have all worked really hard in our sessions.

"The school therapy course trains the dogs to get the most out of the children they are working with."

The dogs have their own personal rosettes, which they can give out if pupils have done well with their reading, in a bid to bolster youngsters' self-confidence.

Bingley and Dudley's rosettes match Montgomery's school colours, and Bruce, who will travel around some of the other FCAT schools, has a rosette in the Trust's colours.

Montgomery Academy's school librarian Liane Coultas (left) with Estelle Bellamy from FCAT with Bingley, Dudley and Bruce, the school's reading therapy dogs. Picture: Daniel Martino/JPI Media

Estelle Bellamy from FCAT said: "We piloted using therapy dogs to help with reading at Montgomery and it's gone really well. They lift everybody's mood and they help to provide pupils with responsibility too.

"They are trained to help specifically with reading, so they can touch books with their noses or paw the pages to encourage children to read. They also learn tricks, which helps the children really enjoy being with the dogs and the dogs can do fun things for them as well."

Liane Coultas, Montgomery's school librarian, said: "One of our greatest achievements at Montgomery has been using the accelerated reader programme to raise students' standards and their confidence to read.

"We are fortunate enough to have an incredible team of staff, and now canines, who continue to give their everything to student education. I could not be more proud of our 'prefect' pooches."

Theo Nelson, 12, reading with Dudley and wearing his reading achievement rosettes. Picture: Daniel Martino/JPI Media

Although Bruce, Bingley and Dudley are used to help with reading, other resort schools under the FCAT umbrella also have their own therapy dogs.

Mereside Academy has Fudge, Gateway Academy has Stanley, and Armfield Academy has Lottie - all of whom are used to help promote confidence in the schools' pupils.

John Topping from FCAT added: "The Fylde Coast Academy Trust is always looking for innovative ways to improve literacy.

Our FCAT vision is that 'all our children benefit from a rich, engaging and memorable learning experience, thriving as readers, scholars and as citizens'. The use of therapy dogs will certainly assist our youngsters to thrive as readers."

Dog trainer Natasha Davies with Bruce. Picture: Daniel Martino/JPI Media