Home   Bury St Edmunds   News   Article

Well-being dog at St Benedict's, Bury St Edmunds, is a real teacher's pet




It is not every day that you get to hang out with a well-being dog.

But for pupils and staff at St Benedict’s in Bury St Edmunds, who regularly get to spend time with Rosie the two-year-old fox red Labrador, it is a reality.

Rosie is owned by teacher Elspeth Coogan, who is head of Year 10 and has experience of working with animals and young people.

Students Ruby Hart, Joshua Holt, Isadora Edwards and teacher Elspeth CooganPicture by Mark Westley
Students Ruby Hart, Joshua Holt, Isadora Edwards and teacher Elspeth CooganPicture by Mark Westley

Elspeth came up with the idea to take Rosie into school after speaking to Rosie’s mum’s owner and realising the idea of taking a dog into school would be ‘incredible.’

“Rosie’s mum is a therapy dog and I got chatting to her owner, and it struck a chord and I thought this is incredible,” Elspeth said.

She added: “I thought wow, I could do that. My own children get something out of that.”

Rosie works on a one-to-one basis with studentsby Mark Westley
Rosie works on a one-to-one basis with studentsby Mark Westley

Rosie works mainly on a one-to-one basis with nominated students, and is not therefore out and about on the school site during busier times.

Elspeth said the students’ response to Rosie had been ‘incredible’, mostly because of her laid back and relaxed attitude which the pupils reacted well to.

“By just having 20 minutes or so with her, they say how much more relaxed they are and when they watch me with Rosie they get the sense that someone is really caring and they can see that and they feel they are part of our community,” she said.

The school has spent time ensuring Rosie is ready for the role, taking advice and guidance from Our Special Friends, a charity that specialises in animal-assisted activities.

Well-being dogs have been proven to be beneficial for students mental healthPicture by Mark Westley
Well-being dogs have been proven to be beneficial for students mental healthPicture by Mark Westley

Elspeth also receives continued professional development so as to ensure her role is being fulfilled to the best of her abilities.

Elspeth said once she had the idea to take Rosie into school, headteacher Imogen Senior was more than receptive to the idea, especially after going back into school after lockdown.

“Part of our Catholic ethos is that we look after all animals so well-being is a top part of the school,” she said.

Mrs Imogen Senior, headteacher at St Benedict'sPicture by Mark Westley
Mrs Imogen Senior, headteacher at St Benedict'sPicture by Mark Westley

“It’s not just about academic results, it’s about the well-being of the children.”

Well-being dogs have been proven to be an effective solution to assisting young people with feeling safe within school and improving their mental health.

Read more: All the latest news from Bury St Edmunds

News from our universities, local primary and secondary schools including Ofsted inspections and league tables can be found here.