Meet Bertie Button – the hound-some teacher who is carrying out im-paw-tant work in helping children improve their reading skills.
Tail-ented teacher Bertie is helping primary school pupils improve their reading, writing and arith-mutt-tic in his first year of teaching.
Manor Field Primary School in Burgess Hill are believed to be the first school in Sussex to benefit from a permanent resident canine in the classroom.
The pedagogic pedigree was paid for out of her own pocket by headteacher Kit Messenger and goes home with his boss every night.
Mrs Messenger said she was inspired to take up the idea after reading a research article about the positive impact that dogs had in the classroom.
During the last summer holiday, the headteacher drove to Barnstaple in Devon to go and collect the latest addition to the school teaching staff.
He started last summer, even coming in during the school holidays to get accustomed to the premises, and after completing the various health and safety requirements started work in September. Bertie is a cross between a shih tzu and a poodle – a specially chosen hypoallergenic and non-shedding breed of dog to ensure none of the pupils have a negative reaction to his presence.
In total, it will take Bertie a full 18 months to finish his training but the school is already reaping the benefits from his appointment.
Bertie is being used to inspire children’s writing, give them support for their reading, as a reward for good behaviour or outstanding work and helping to teach responsibilities with children walking, grooming, playing and training him.
As well as benefitting pupils, Bertie has also been a big help for one member of staff who was once too scared to be in the room with any dogs.
Mrs Messenger said: “Children have written him into stories, they love writing about the adventures of Bertie Button.
“Children who are less confident can read to Bertie and we use him as a reward if children have done well.
“The children love him, in April he received 250 birthday cards from pupils.
“He lives at home with me and I finance all of it.
“There is quite a bit of research to show that dogs are beneficial but I didn’t want to waste school funds if it turned out he had no effect on the children’s learning.”