Matlock school dog supports pupils in mental health week

A dog has been supporting pupils’ wellbeing at a Derbyshire school during Children’s Mental Health Week.

This week, youngsters at Saint Joseph’s Catholic Voluntary Academy in Matlock can pet Arthur whenever they like or have time with him in the zen den, a quiet space with toys and a sofa.

Children’s Mental Health Week is taking place from 5th-11th February, with the theme My Voice Matters.

Head teacher Stacey Carr says Arthur, a Labrador, is a calming influence.

The school is also running daily mindfulness sessions like yoga this week, which Arthur – who is the head teacher’s pet – sits in on.

Mrs Carr says pupils “adore” him, and “he provides comfort, companionship and unconditional love to our pupils”.

She added: “Arthur helps children who struggle to regulate their emotions, he can really help to calm them down.

“He’s really settled in school now and will go in and out of classrooms.

“The other day he was asleep on the carpet while the teacher was reading to the children. I’ve also seen him outside with the children when they are playing football.”

Children are allowed to walk Arthur, who has been at the school since the start of the academic year, as a reward for good behaviour all year round.

Mrs Carr said this “helps to build a sense of responsibility and empathy among our students”, as well as joy and excitement.

The head teacher said staff also use Arthur to demonstrate the importance of sleep, as he often dozes off at reading time.

Pupil Bridget, 11, says having Arthur around is “‘so lovely because he’s so calming but having him in school is exciting at the same time”.

Orlaith, 11, said: “I love having Arthur in school, it’s really fun and he’s really cute.

“He even has his photo on the staff board. I think he comforts staff as well as children.”