Sunderland school gives students mental health boost with the help of furry friends

A Sunderland school is using dogs to give students a mental health boost following the stressful time of GCSE exams.

Argyle House School, in Thornhill, Sunderland, has been offering dog therapy to students as a way to boost the mental wellbeing of pupils, especially those who have recently taken GCSE exams.

With the help of two four-legged friends, Luke and Bow, brought in by headteacher Chris Johnson, pupils have lowered stress levels by playing and interacting with the pet pooches.

Children of all ages have benefited from time with the dogs, from the age of four and five in kindergarten and year one all the way up to the oldest pupils.

Dogs Luke and Bow

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During exam season, and when the older cohort of pupils were sitting their GCSEs, Luke and Bow played an important role by spending time with pupils right before they entered the exam hall, easing stress and anxiety before the exam.

Mr Johnson said: “Our dogs have always played an integral part in school life - the school is like a second home to them.

"They have their own designated space within the school for their own quiet time, but when they feel ready to play, our children welcome them with open arms.

“Many pupils feel a sense of responsibility towards Luke and Bow, who are part of our school family, checking they have enough water and that their needs are met.

“For our older children, Luke and Bow encourage playfulness and exercise at a time of stress, helping them to deal with the challenges of their exams beforehand and helping them to unwind and switch off afterwards.

"The dogs are a real source of joy right across the school, and we feel very fortunate to be able to include them in our wonderful community.

Argyle House has, over the years, also raised money for dog-related charities, such as The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and has even had three guide dog puppies live at the school on different occasions as part of its training programme.

One pupil in year 11, said: “We’ve had the dogs at the school for as long as we can remember, and they’ve truly been a help throughout the years. We love having them around.”