Seb the school dog means child has to miss class

Lacey Taylor, 6, who is allergic to dogs.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Lacey Taylor, 6, who is allergic to dogs.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A dog which helps pupils to relax and learn to read has left one youngster at home – because she has an allergy.

Caitlin Goldsmith reading with Sebastian at Queen's Hill primary school at Costessey. Photo: Bill Sm

Caitlin Goldsmith reading with Sebastian at Queen's Hill primary school at Costessey. Photo: Bill Smith

Queen's Hill Primary School, on Fieldfare Way, Costessey, has had a school dog since last year. It brought in Seb, a collie-retriever cross, after head teacher Penny Sheppard studied research from Britain and America about the benefits of dogs working with children.

Dogs are increasingly used as an anxiety-relieving tool and Queen's Hill have been using the dog to support children's reading and as a reward for good behaviour.

Mrs Sheppard said: 'Having a dog in school has had a tremendous impact on our children and has been well received by very many parents and pupils. He was fully trained before he started working in school and is able to help with children's reading, is used as a reward for positive behaviour and also helps to build children's confidence with animals.'

The school says the results have shown that children made on average two years and three months reading age progress between last June and February, and their attitude to reading has also improved.

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'The children look forward to reading with him and greet the dog rather than the adult,' Mrs Sheppard added.

But Carla Taylor, 28, has said she had been forced to take her six-year-old daughter Lacey out of school because her allergies are so bad.

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The school put in place a care plan recommended by the school nurse to make sure Lacey did not come into contact with Seb, but Mrs Taylor, from Queen's Hill, said it had been breached.'It has been awful to see Lacey so upset and she has been asking to go to school every day, but she can't because her care plan has been breached.'

Mrs Sheppard said: 'We are clear that our school dog cannot be in the same room as Lacey and have made sure all staff are aware of this. We have put in a range of additional measures, including bringing the dog into school once Lacey is in her classroom, keeping the dog in the office and vacuuming twice a day to remove fur.

'We have also put steps in place so that Lacey does not have to walk past the office when the dog is there.

'We completely sympathise with Lacey because we know that allergies can be difficult to manage. That is why we had a full risk assessment in place before the dog came to school and why we have a small number of children who do not have contact with the dog.

'We have fully taken into consideration the advice from Lacey's doctor and want to work with her parents to ensure she attends school regularly. We feel we have taken all of the appropriate steps to minimise any risk to Lacey and this issue is now being considered by our governors, in line with the school's complaints procedure.'

•Do you have a story about a school? Email education correspondent

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