Rory is ready to take on calming role

​​St Augustine's students feel focused with Rory the College's Educational Support Dog

THE newest staff member at St Augustine's College, Augustine Heights, may never teach in a classroom, but he will be helping keep students calm and focused while at school. 

Rory is a cute and cuddly Cavoodle who is being trained as an Educational Support Dog for the College's Early Years and Junior Years. 

However, before his training has even begun Rory is proving to be a tonic to students, staff and parents while he takes his walks through the College grounds every morning. 

St Augustine's Head of Early and Junior Years, Helen Leeson, has been introducing Rory to the College and getting him used to the busyness as students arrive and depart school.  

“It will involve a lot of training for Rory. He needs to learn a few skills that perhaps a normal family pet wouldn't need to learn, like not jumping up on students, not taking food from them and to be calm around excited students," Helen said. 

Helen said Educational Support Dogs can be a fantastic addition to any learning environment. 

“These dogs can provide support to students in a number of ways such as offering emotional support, recognising signs of anxiety, and helping improve concentration and communication skills, as well as reducing the incidence of antisocial behaviour and bullying." 

She said significant research shows the value of having an animal in a school setting, including helping with regulating student behaviour and increasing motivation and engagement, all which improve student learning progress.  

“In his role Rory will help to reduce stress or trauma in students," she said.  

“We've already had an incident where he helped a reluctant student from the middle years get out of the car in the morning at drop off and attend school for the day. 

“We also had another student who was having trouble focussing, however after only 10 minutes of sitting with Rory, he was ready to go back into the classroom for learning. 

“So, he has a calming effect. The research shows that even by patting a pet it can reduce your blood pressure." 

She said by the time Rory has been fully trained and matured he will start to take a much more active part in the classrooms and in the playground. 

“Then when we have issues with student behaviour or student non-engagement in learning, Rory will hopefully be able to assist.  

“He'll also be joining classes when they're working in reading groups or general learning and hopefully making that learning more engaging," she said. 

Helen said as a long-time dog lover she has always been conscious of the impact they can have on emotional health and wellbeing.  

Helen said the students had really taken to Rory, even the students who might normally be afraid of dogs.  

“He's become a real favourite in such a short time. The students happily greet Rory in the morning and during the day. Rory loves the students too." 

She said he's also become a bit of a therapy dog for staff members. 

“They seek out Rory to have a cuddle, a pat or just to say hello and have made him feel welcome in the staffroom. 

“It's going to be so wonderful for our students to watch Rory growing up and see him mature and become a very much-loved staff member of our College." 

Rory will not be the only service dog at the College. Helen Farrelly, Head of the Middle Years, has also purchased a labradoodle puppy to primarily support the Middle Years students. 

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