He might not follow the uniform rules exactly, but he is very good in class and runs the school’s daily mile with his young friends at St Paul’s Catholic Primary School with huge enthusiasm – and he has recently celebrated his first birthday.
But there is more to Chip, a Cockapoo, than being just a four-legged furry addition for fun; he plays a serious role in terms of wellbeing and emotional support during a very difficult year for everyone.
“During the lockdown, we visited many children in their own homes and we had the pleasure of meeting lots of animals, especially dogs,” said headteacher Eileen Lomax.
“Seeing how affectionate the children were towards their own dogs and hearing about the emotional support these pets have provided to families during this difficult time, the governors and staff decided that Chip would be a perfect pet,” she added.
“I quickly realised how much emotional support and how important pets were in helping people cope with isolation and the changes in pandemic life. Parents and children welcomed the idea of a school dog and so Chip became part of our school family.”
Chip joined the school, which is a member of the Bishop Bewick Catholic Education Trust, at eight weeks old and socialised with the children who were attending during lockdown because their parents were key workers.
“In September he welcomed everyone back to school and our reception children left their parents and walked into school without any distress,” said Mrs Lomax.
“They were excited to hold Chip’s lead and walk with him and a teacher. He is now at the school gates every morning to welcome his young friends and help them gain confidence.”
And parents also think a school dog is a brilliant idea.
Claire Carpenter, a Year 6 parent, said: “My son was very nervous about returning to school but as soon as I told him he would meet Chip, his nervousness turned to excitement. Chip is a wonderful asset to the school, the effect on the children is amazing and I think every school should have one.”