Park Community Academy highlights the role of school therapy dogs with their Great British Bark Off fundraiser

A Blackpool academy spent a week baking and walking their therapy dog for charity, and want to highlight why therapy dogs are vital for special needs schools.

By Lucinda Herbert
Friday, 24th June 2022, 4:55 am
Updated Friday, 24th June 2022, 2:04 pm

Park Community Academy had a dog themed fundraising week that involved their therapy dog being walked a total of fifteen miles by the pupils.

Therapy dog, Daisy, was taken for a walk by almost every pupil at the school on Whitegate Drive in the Great British Bark Off, which raised £800 to help therapy dogs worldwide.

Children ranging from 2 to 19, took turns in walking the 18 month old cockapoo around the school grounds, and on Stanley Park.

Javier Austin, 17, Alwin Biju, 18, Francesca Westworth, 18, and Joshua Hunt, 18, with Daisy

And the highly trained pooch lives with the deputy headteacher, Hayley Gardiner, who wanted to raise awareness of the role of school therapy dogs.

Ms Gardiner said: “Daisy plays such a huge role in building confidence. She calms the pupils, especially if they are struggling with emotions. We do a ‘walk and talk therapy’, where a pupil and learning mentor can take the dog for a walk and it really helps the child to open up away from the classroom.”

The hypoallergenic pooch has completed special training, and her trainer, Natasha-Anne Davies, visits regularly to make sure her training is fully up to date.

And she can help the children, who have complex learning difficulties, to engage with their literacy.

Michael Hemsley aged 9 with Daisy the therapy dog

“She listens to the children read. There are certain cues that she listens out for, and then she’ll put her paw on the page. That kind of interaction encourages the child to keep reading. The impact Daisy has is unbelievable.”

Therapy dogs can be trained to help children who find reading difficult or have a short concentration span.

Pets As Therapy (PAT), a charity that coordinates the Read2Dogs scheme, said: “Some students feel incredibly nervous and stressed when asked to read aloud, regardless of whether they’re in a classroom or having a one-to-one session with a teacher.

Tiffany Singer, 18, with Daisy the therapy dog at Park Community Academy

[A dog's] presence can boost a young person’s motivation and morale. Dogs are non-judgmental and great listeners - they don’t interrupt or correct - so they aid confidence and concentration levels.”

Learn more about school therapy dogs at https://petsastherapy.org

Harry Edwards-Mallon aged 14 with home made cakes for the Great British Bark Off
Daisy the therapy dog at Park Community Academy