A SCHOOL has become the first in the county to introduce therapy dogs to help children read.

Parkland Infant and Junior Schools in Eastbourne has enlisted the help of two black labradors to help boost children’s confidence – and reading skills.

The dogs, named Hardy and Dylan, go to the school every week where they work with small groups of children aged between four and 11.

The dogs are taken in by their owners Sally and Sam Attfield, who volunteer for Pets As Therapy (PAT), a charity that provides a visiting service in hospitals, hospices and nursing homes.

Parkland Infant and Junior Schools are among the first to recognise the benefits PAT dogs can bring to children, particularly those who have problems with reading, lack confidence in group situations or have difficulty concentrating.

Sally Simpson, head of Parkland Infant School, said: “Dylan and Hardy are a wonderful addition to our team.

“They are supporting children to develop confidence with key skills as well as helping them develop a love and respect for animals.

“Approaching education from new and exciting angles is part of our school ethos and something we are very proud of.

“We started the project in September and are already seeing the benefits in terms of the children’s confidence as well as their reading skills and vocabulary. The dogs also have a calming and nurturing effect on the children.

“A big thank you to Sally and Sam Attfield for such a positive partnership and for helping us to make a difference.”

Vicki Wilson, head of Parkland Junior School added: “The junior children look forward to reading to the dogs every week. It provides them with a calm environment, the opportunity to read as well as gaining in confidence to try new opportunities in a range of situations that they would not normally get to experience.”

Brothers Dylan and Hardy are nine and and have been PAT dogs since they were two.

Sally Attfield, who also assesses PAT dogs and their owners for suitability, said: “Hardy and Dylan have been PAT dogs for seven years but this is the first time they have worked in a school and they absolutely love it.

“They have loyally worked locally in a number of nursing homes but the interaction with the children is an absolute joy to watch.

“They really enjoy all the attention and are quite happy to lie there while the children stroke them.

“The children are getting to know the dogs and we are getting to know the children.

“It’s wonderful to see the progress they make as they come out of their shells and grow in confidence.”