Posted 3 months ago ago
Written by Louisa Gregson
Pupils at a primary school have no chance of becoming the teachers pet after the head started bringing his own dog Selkie 'The Pupil Whisperer' into classes every morning.
Selkie, a seven-year-old Labrador, has become an honorary member of the teaching staff at Bickley Park School in Bromley, Essex, coming in every morning to greet the pupils.
And during the lockdown she was a much needed constant in the suddenly disrupted lives of key workers' children who still came into school every day.
The doggo’s owner, and head teacher of the school, Patrick Wenham says: “Selkie is very much a member of staff at the school."
"It's been a funny old world.
"Selkie has kept social distance but has maintained a cheerful presence.
"She remains unchanging and that's the thing about dogs - their world remains the same.
"She loves the constant interaction and that has been missing from a lot of the children's experiences."
Selkie also helps those who suffer with cynophobia - the fear of dogs - as well as acting as a talking therapy provider for those who need extra support in difficult times.
“Children can tell her their problems without feeling judged.”
The patient pooch is loved by all the pupils and staff and helped one boy with cynophobia to get to grips with his fear.
Former pupil Alex Awolola was so scared of canines when he was 13, he had five lessons at a centre that introduced dogs to those with cynophobia.
This allowed him to get to know pooches on a basic level, but when he went back to school he had to test out what he had been taught with Selkie.
Alex was able to go to the head teacher’s office and managed to stroke Selkie, claiming it was a ‘mission accomplished’ and he felt ‘proud of himself’.
Patrick Wenham said: “Dogs are often referred to as man’s best friend but for those who have a genuine fear of encountering them, life can be very difficult.
“Selkie has always been heavily involved in the school community, and having her present is proving invaluable for those who have a fear to overcome or those that just need to trust someone who won’t pass judgement.
“Research has shown that stroking animals has a positive effect on mood, and can help relax and soothe people.
Selkie is a very calm, good-natured dog who is happy to take the role of pupil therapist.
"She is looking forward to helping many more pupils."