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Corsham pupils perfect reading skills thanks to special canine helper
A group of pupils from Corsham Primary School have been pawfecting their reading skills with the help of study buddy Olive the greyhound.
Since Christmas, four-year-old Olive, has been visiting five children, from the school’s sunshine group, with her owner Emma Ratcliffe, 47, who is the Bath events co-ordinator for Greyhound Rescue West of England (GRWE).
During the sessions, Olive, who was once destined for a racing career before being abandoned as a puppy in Ireland, helps the children focus as they read to her and develop their skills.
Headteacher Fiona Allen, who is a volunteer with GRWE, approached Mrs Ratcliffe, with the idea of bringing Olive in after being inspired by the reading education assistant dogs programme which runs in American schools.
Mrs Allen said: "At Corsham Primary we have two specialist learning centres, both of which cater for fabulous children who need a different sort of curriculum.
"I have always had it in my mind to involve a special dog in the life of our children who have special educational needs. This has been a brilliant opportunity for them to learn all sorts of new skills."
Typically, the workshops, which take place every few weeks, involve the students reading to Olive as well as doing painting and drawing with her while they also take her for a walk and learn about caring for animals.
Mrs Ratcliffe, who has taken in rescued grehounds for the past 10 years and has five other dogs, said: "For some children, it can be the hardest thing in the world reading to an adult, where as the benefit of reading to dogs is that they don’t judge, they just sit and listen, allowing the children to develop their confidence.
"I think it is great to explore different ways of teaching our children as not everyone is the same. This programme seems to give them real focus as they develop in their own personal space. While it also teaches them how to treat animals too."
Since being introduced to pupils at an assembly, Olive, has become something of a celebrity at the school even having her picture on the staff notice board.
Mrs Ratcliffe, who works as an admin assistant, said: "The sessions work really well, as the pupils love trying to impress Olive and she really enjoys the attention, as she’s a real show off."
During recent sessions, Olive, has taken the lead, welcoming her apprentice, Tim, one of Mrs Ratcliffe’s other dogs, to the sunshine group further assistanting the children.
As part of the programme, the sunshine group, has sponsored a dog called Barney through GRWE’s sponsor a dog scheme and are planning a fundraiser to support another.
For more information visit www.grwe.com.
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