When a nursery in Fife started working in partnership with Guide Dogs for the Blind, staff noticed the benefits immediately. The innovative project at Balmullo Primary School Nursery has enriched the children’s learning experiences and provided significant opportunities and benefits for the children and the dogs.
Wendy MacPherson, who had been Balmullo’s nursery teacher for more than 15 years, initiated the programme and as she was also teaching in the upper school, she was able to bring the benefits to older children too.
Wendy, now the school’s primary 1/2 teacher, said: “I have been involved with guide dogs for some time and, as an animal lover, I know the benefits of having a dog around, for adults and children. We are all very proud at Balmullo to be supporting guide dog puppies in training. This is a fantastic partnership where both our learners and guide dog puppies can progress with their education.”
Before bringing the dogs into the school, Wendy completed a comprehensive risk assessment and spoke to key stakeholders, including staff, parents and the Parent Council.
“I saw the benefit of the pups being able to come into school to socialise and experience the workplace and I instinctively knew how the presence of a dog in school would support our children’s learning, in particular social and emotional wellbeing,” said
Wendy. “It is lovely to see the children come into school with a smile and a lovely welcome for the dog. The pups have given confidence to children who have previously been scared or unsure around dogs. We have had a significant turnaround of children who now want to be close to the dogs and their parents have been amazed.”
The positive outcomes continue to grow, including children being more motivated with their learning, building their confidence and self-esteem, developing caring attitudes and taking on the responsibilities of caring for a guide dog.
Care Inspector Anne McBroom said: “The project has really had a positive impact and contributed to a calm atmosphere at the nursery. The guide dog training has additional benefits, including teaching the children about road safety while they (and school staff) are out walking the dogs and providing opportunities for fresh air and exercise. ”