A dog has completed his first year of training and become the most popular member of staff at a Burgess Hill school.
Bertie Button, an ‘Attending School Dog’ , has been one of the most successful learning aids to be brought in to Manor Field Primary School to encourage children to read and write.
Headteacher Kit Messenger said she was proud of her choice to introduce him.
She said: “It’s the best idea I’ve had for years!
“Children are desperate to read with him. They love it. We have a line of children each day.
“We’ve had some really reluctant readers who have really turned around because of him.”
She joked: “He’s become the most popular member of staff. It’s quite annoying.”
Bertie has his own range of certificates which he gives out to children when they have done particularly well including ‘well done for learning’ and ‘well done I loved your story’.
Ms Messenger added: “He really motivates the children to write. He gets stories every week and cards. Children write ‘the adventures of Bertie Button’.”
Pupil Daisy Curran, seven, said she has been more excited to come into school ever since Bertie was introduced and she thought it was a ‘very clever’ idea of Ms Messenger’s.
She said: “Every day when I get dressed I think of Bertie Button and Ms Messenger.”
Daisy said it was funny when Bertie handed out his certificates with Ms Messenger.
She said: “Ms Messenger gives us the certificate and Bertie stands by her looking proud and fancy.”
She added that she has been given several opportunities to help train him to do different tricks.
“I always train him and now he’s getting really really good. He’s good at beg and he can dance like people dance.
Ms Messenger attended a course for headteachers to to ensure Bertie Button was properly introduced and trained as a school dog.
Bertie goes home with Ms Messenger when school’s out and she said he is like a different dog at home.
She said: “He’s more relaxed and calm when his school coat is on.
“He’s got a sense of ‘this is time to do my work’.”
Bertie’s entire training takes 18 months and is very rigorous.
At first he was a ‘reward canine’ meaning children were allowed to spend time with him when they had made a particularly good achievement.
As he became more experienced in his role he began working with individual children as a therapeutic dog and as a reading assistance dog.
The school has a web page devoted to Bertie . It states that Bertie’s aspiration is to work towards achieving his status as a fully qualified school dog, to become an integral part of the school teaching team and to be highly valued by the school and the children.
The website also includes some of the pieces of work by pupils which have been inspired by Bertie.
These include; ‘Bertie and the Dinosaurs’, ‘Outer Space Bertie Story’, ‘and Bertie Button the hero!’
The school has said it was to have these stories made into a professionally bound book which will be available in its school and the local library.
For more visit: www.manorfieldschool.org