The life of an ECO is busy and varied, often visiting a different school every day. (Occasionally I’ve even managed assemblies in 3 different schools on the same day!) In my patch, the South West, I might be working in a large inner-city school in Bristol one day, followed by a little school in the Somerset hills the next. Children’s experiences of, and assumptions about, dogs vary so much from school to school that the discussion around what it means to be a ‘responsible dog owner’ is always different.
I love this variety, but am always thrilled to spend two consecutive days in the same school. In smaller schools, this sometimes allows me to work with every class in the school, and gives time for informal chats with children about their experiences of dogs at lunchtime or playtime, which I always enjoy.
This week I had the pleasure of spending a couple of days in Flax Bourton Primary, just outside Bristol. Unusually, the school has two chocolate Labradors as school dogs, Rafi and Zuri. This makes it even more important that they understand about dog safety and the importance of respecting a dog’s space. The school had clearly done an excellent job in instilling respect for the dogs, but the headteacher was keen that I reinforce key dog-safety messages during my whole-school assembly. This included reminding the children that not all Labradors are as used to children as Rafi and Zuri and that they must always ask the owner’s permission before approaching one (and indeed any dog.) I was more than happy to oblige; at Dogs Trust we firmly believe that we should not to judge a dog on how it looks, and are keenly aware of the potential problems of children thinking “That dog looks like my dog so it must be friendly.”
Another huge bonus of revisiting a school is being able to see the follow-up work that many teachers do with their classes after one of our workshops. I worked with Flax Bourton’s lively, articulate Year 5/6 class during my first visit and was thrilled to see that the next day they were applying what they had learnt in some persuasive writing. See below for just a few examples of their work, demonstrating some mature insights into the responsibilities of dog ownership.