YOU have goat to be kidding... rabbits and guinea pigs may be on their way out as class pets, in favour of something a little bigger, and with an appetite for pretty much anything.

Varndean School, in Balfour Road, Brighton, has introduced five pygmy goats – Maya, Bertie, Alan, Ethel and William – and they have been a big hit with staff and students alike.

The farmyard favourites were the idea of Hilary Goldsmith, the school’s director of finance, who noticed that an enclosed grassy courtyard could benefit from grazing.

She obtained the animals from her former school, which has a farm and wanted to rehome them.

“The thing with goats is that they give back whatever you give to them,” Ms Goldsmith told the Times Educational Supplement.

“They will get to know you, become friends with you, and interact in funny and engaging ways.”

She said the goats give the children a chance to spend time outdoors and interact with the animals, who even have their own twitter account – @varndeangoats.

“Goat Club runs every lunchtime and we didn’t anticipate its popularity with over 100 student members signed up. We had to limit the numbers visiting per day.

“Students of all ages spend time in the GoatsQuad, sweeping up, feeding, brushing and learning about animal care and welfare,” she said.

“Aside from the fun of having these funny, lively characters as pets, the goats play an important part in supporting our pastoral care provision and are used in lots of creative ways to support teaching and learning in several subject areas.

“There are many well-documented studies on the successful use of animals as therapy in helping young people communicate and develop strong nurturing bonds with animals in a non-threatening and mindful manner.

“For some young people, being greeted by a stampede of furry, noisy goats, and having the experience of someone delighted to see them, is very welcome.”

The school has also noticed that the farmyard favourites may be having an impact on behaviour - with its records showing that the number of behaviour incidents has fallen by 29 per cent.