School ‘wellbeing dogs’ help reduce stress in classroom, says education secretary Damian Hinds

Rebecca Speare-Cole

"Wellbeing dogs” in schools are helping make a difference to stressful classroom environments, education secretary Damian Hinds said.

Speaking at a wellbeing conference in Westminster Abbey, Mr Hinds said that dogs can be "really uplifting", particularly for children with different ways of expressing themselves.

The education secretary spoke in support of the University of Buckingham's vice-chancellor, Sir Anthony Seldon, who suggested every school in the UK should have a dog.

Sir Anthony said a school dog is “a powerfully cost-effective way of helping children feel more secure at schools.”

Dogs can be a

“The quickest and biggest hit that we can make to improve mental health in our schools and to make them feel safe for children, is to have at least one dog in every single school in the country.

“Because children can relate to animals when they are hurt and anxious and sad in a way that they can’t always with human beings.”

“The evidence is very clear that it works and every single school, primary, secondary, special – should have dogs," he added.

“It’s hard to think of an easier, quicker benefit.”

The University of Buckingham’s Ultimate Wellbeing in Education Conference held at Westminster Abby on Thursday examined how to respond to the stresses and anxieties facing young people.

Mr Hinds told the conference that the relentless presence of social media made growing up “more pressurised” as teenagers compare their own experiences with “perfect lives” on social media.

Damian Hinds praised the Evening Standard for its long-standing campaign to raise awareness of FGM (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

He said that his visits to schools showed how “wellbeing dogs” were becoming more common in the classroom.

“This is one of those things that wasn’t around when I was at school.

“I hadn’t really realised the incidence of it until I was education secretary.

“First I was a bit surprised, but actually it’s a great thing.

“For the kids, it can be really uplifting, particularly those that have different ways of expressing themselves and coming out of themselves, and the dog or the pets can really help.”

But he added there were no current plans for a “central dog policy.”