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Last Updated: Friday, 21 November, 2003, 11:10 GMT
Henry, king of the classroom
By Justin Parkinson
BBC News Online education staff

Henry Fanshawe Smart
"Don't give me any grief"

With his impeccable breeding and double-barrelled surname, he's an unlikely candidate to restore order to a group of troublesome teenagers.

But Henry Fanshawe Smart is a Cavalier King Charles spaniel on a mission.

The foot-tall four month old is thought to be the first dog in the UK to become a classroom assistant.

Staff at Dronfield school, Derbyshire, swear by Henry's power to control a group of 30 children with discipline problems, previously considered a "bunch of hard nuts".

'They go a bit gooey'

Behavioural support manager Wendy Brown and school counsellor Wendy Smart decided to bring a dog in after reading about the therapeutic effects of pets.

Ms Brown said: "We realised the benefits of having a dog in a hospital or around the house. I've got one at home and it has a wonderfully calming effect.

"Many of our children have attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder and have a reputation around the school as being a bit of a handful.

"They come here and they are tough nuts until they see this dog. He makes them realise it isn't uncool to show love.

"A lot of them go a bit gooey and can't stop fussing over him."

Having had just toilet training and a few lessons in food-grabbing etiquette, Henry started in the classroom at the beginning of the school year.

'Chihuahuas need not apply'

In his first three months, he has charmed the children in a way which had eluded his human counterparts, reducing the level of bad behaviour.

The spaniel's suitably aristocratic name comes from Henry Fanshawe, a school governor, and Ms Smart, who looks after him when he is not at work.

Unlike other classroom assistants, Henry never complains about poor pay.

In fact, he costs the school nothing, as local vets supply his leads and baskets, while a dog food firm keeps him in meat, bones and biscuits.

Ms Brown said: "He's lovely, a really nice dog. We got him from a local breeder, having researched the most appropriate breed. Cavalier King Charles spaniels are very bright.

"We didn't want a dog that was too yappy or energetic, who might disrupt lessons. Henry's very relaxed.

"It's rubbed off on the kids and really calmed them down. It's been amazing. There's been a massive difference in behaviour.

Meeting and greeting

"There was one girl in Year 10 who was close to expulsion, but since Henry's arrived she's been wonderful with him.

"If she hears him coming, with his lead rattling, she's straight up to the door to greet him."

Apart from the children with behavioural problems, many of Dronfield's other 1,800 pupils take Henry for walks on a rota basis.

Ms Brown said: "It's a treat for them, but they have to clear up after him, which helps teach responsibility. He doesn't run loose around the school.

"We've also got an animal trainer to come in and work with the children. He's got them teaching him to sit and stay. We combine this with a course to prepare children for working life."

Henry, however, keeps his paws out of National Curriculum matters, instead concentrating on the discipline side of classroom assistant duties.

Ms Brown said: "We don't just leave it all to him, we do most of the work.

"Henry doesn't cost the school a penny. The way budgets are, I couldn't very well ask for more money to buy and look after a dog.

"I would recommend bringing a dog in to help in the classroom to any school."

Henry is expected to work at Dronfield for another 10 years or so.




SEE ALSO:
Bomb alert over 'break-wind' dog
25 Oct 03  |  West Yorkshire
Schools going to the dogs
29 Jul 99  |  Education


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