St Mary Magdalene Church of England Primary in Sutton in Ashfield is a school with a 350-year history. But recently the school has welcomed what could be its most unusual pupil in its long history, -Maggie the Labradoodle!
Six-month-old Maggie is still owned by her breeder Tracy Hovell (Briemdoodles), but lives with, and is cared for, by her hosts, Foundation Teacher, Mrs Liz Foster and Sam Hovell, Health & Wellbeing Teaching Assistant at the school.
Sam says that Maggie has already had a positive impact at the school. “Maggie comes in and helps with the emotional needs of the children, and the staff too. She goes outside with children for PE and encourages those who are reluctant to join in. She is non-judgemental and is always happy to see the children. Occasionally she is taken for walks in the playground by children with an adult should they need a break and some fresh air. She has transformed and energised the school, when she comes through the school doors, she just can't wait to greet everyone!”
Sam says that it is well known that animals are effective in therapy and says Maggie’s calm and laid-back nature makes her perfect for school work. “We have both structured and not so structure times to spend with Maggie. One great benefit has been for children who struggle to come through the school doors in the morning. Maggie and I do a meet and greet in the playground, and any worries are quickly forgotten.
“Also, during the school day if we see a child who looks a little unhappy, they can come and spend a little time with Maggie and talk things through. Just knowing Maggie is there is a source of comfort, she is always there for them.”
Sam says that Maggie works in the mornings and that school life is enhanced by having her around. “The children definitely feel that way! She is having such a positive impact on children, she listens to them reading, she is a friend to everyone, and we have story time with Maggie for children who have tried hard or done well in their tasks. Everyone is striving to do well so they can have that extra time with her.”
Children at the school have a series of rules which means they are now experts in how to behave around an animal, and always seek consent to approach Maggie to see if she wants to be stroked. “The best thing is the smiles from everyone who sees her,” said Sam. “We have parents who want to take her home, children adore her, and staff are so happy she has joined the team. Children are protective and are careful of noise levels around her and she has become an integral part of the school.
“In fact, we are sure Maggie will be remembered at Christmas and she has already impressed us with her convincing portrayal of a sheep at the nativity play!”
Pupil Myah McCalla age 10 said, “Maggie puts a smile on everybody's face and when she visits our classrooms, everyone is really happy to see her. I think we are really lucky to have her at our school. She makes the school very calm and a very friendly place because everyone wants to make her happy. She is always calm and it makes us calm too.
“We have rules how to approach and ask staff see if she wants to be stroked. I definitely think everyone in school including the teachers are happy she is here. She really helps us, and she is like the pet of the whole school. We all have a little friend at school who happens to be a Maggie the dog!”