Should all schools have 'wellbeing dogs'?

Sir Anthony Seldon, a long-time advocate of better mental health support in schools, has suggested that schools across the country should have dogs to help deal with stress

Vice chancellor of the University of Buckingham, Sir Anthony Seldon, has stated that every school should have a dog – or a pet generally – in order to reduce stress, according to the BBC.

Speaking at the Ultimate Wellbeing in Education conference, Seldon and education secretary, Damian Hinds, agreed that ‘wellbeing dogs’ in schools were a useful tool.

Hinds told the conference that the relentless presence of social media made growing up “more pressurised”, with topics like self-harm and eating disorders normalised.

As such, more focus should be placed on building up pupils’ sense of wellbeing and emotional resilience.

Seldon has been a longstanding advocate for schools and universities to pay more attention to the mental health of their pupils.

His simple, low-tech approach to reducing anxiety includes the soothing presence of animals – particularly dogs.

“The quickest and biggest hit that we can make to improve mental health in our schools and to make them feel safe for children, is to have at least one dog in every single school in the country,” said Seldon.

“Because children can relate to animals when they are hurt and anxious and sad in a way that they can’t always with human beings.

“It will be a powerfully cost-effective way of helping children feel more secure at schools.

“It’s very easy to do, it’s very cost-effective, the evidence is very clear that it works, and every single school – primary, secondary, special – should have dogs.

“It’s hard to think of an easier, quicker benefit,” he said.

Hinds went on to say that the presence of dogs in schools and universities is already becoming more common.

“This is one of those things that wasn’t around when I was at school,” he said. “I hadn’t really realised the incidence of it until I was education secretary. First I was a bit surprised, but actually it’s a great thing.

“For the kids it can be really uplifting, particularly those that have different ways of expressing themselves and coming out of themselves – and the dog or the pets can really help.”

He added that there are no plans for a “central dog policy”.

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